On 23 March 2020 the Abortion Legislation Bill was passed into law, removing the procedure from the Crimes Act and making it a health issue between a woman and her doctor. These are the changes that effect GPs.
- Prior to 20 weeks gestation, a woman can now self-determine if she wants an abortion.
- A qualified health practitioner may provide abortion services to a woman who is not more than 20 weeks pregnant.
Read the Ministry of Health’s communication around expectations (link to GP Pulse story that is Ministry communication)
No counselling requirement
A health practitioner must advise a woman of the availability of counselling services if the woman seeks advice or information about whether to continue or terminate a pregnancy; or advises the health practitioner of the wish to terminate a pregnancy; or has terminated a pregnancy.
A qualified health practitioner may not, as a condition of providing abortion services to a woman, require the woman to attend counselling before or after the provision of those services.
Abortion after 20 weeks
- A qualified health practitioner may only provide abortion services to a woman who is more than 20 weeks pregnant if the health practitioner reasonably believes that the abortion is clinically appropriate in the circumstances.
- If a woman seeking an abortion is more than 20 weeks pregnant, the qualified health practitioner must, when considering whether the abortion is clinically appropriate in the circumstances:
- consult at least one other qualified health practitioner
- have regard to all relevant legal, professional, and ethical standards to which the qualified health practitioner is subject
- give regard to the woman’s physical health, mental health, overall well-being, and the gestational age of the foetus.
Subsection 2 does not apply in a medical emergency.
Self-referral to abortion services
A qualified health practitioner may not, as a condition of providing abortion services to a woman, require the woman to be referred from a health practitioner.
Abortion service providers are required to provide a notification of each abortion performed.
For abortions performed prior to the enactment date (up to and including 23 March 2020), please continue to complete and submit the Abortion Supervisory Committee paper-based form in the usual manner.
For abortions performed on or after the enactment date (from 24 March 2020 onwards), notifications should be provided to the Ministry of Health, and a new form is required. Please email email@example.com if you are an abortion service provider and require access to the new notification forms
If a GP has a conscientious objection to providing, or to assisting with providing, contraception services, sterilisation services, abortion services, or information or advisory services about whether to continue or terminate a pregnancy they must tell their patient at the earliest opportunity:
- of their conscientious objection; and
- how to access the contact details of another person who is a provider who is the closest provider of the service requested.
Conscientious objection does not override a health practitioner’s professional and legal duty to provide prompt and appropriate medical assistance to any person in a medical emergency.
Further detail and reading