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Family Planning says law reform is good news/bad news

Monday 5 August 2019

The proposed new abortion framework released today by the government is a good news/bad news story, Family Planning says.

While the good news is that the Government has committed to reforming abortion law, the bad news is the missed chance to make New Zealand a country with a legal framework based on human rights and best clinical practice.

"It is positive that the government is moving forward with reforming our abortion laws and offering a framework that is an improvement to the laws we currently have," says Jackie Edmond, Chief Executive of Family Planning. "The proposed approach isn’t what the broader health community, including Family Planning, recommended and is really a missed opportunity to put all women front and centre of the process."

Health experts agreed that the Law Commission’s model A, where a women and her health practitioner make the decision about the pregnancy, was the most appropriate framework for the provision of abortion services. They also agreed there is no need for arbitrary legal requirements. Still, Family Planning is pleased that the proposed model will remove abortion from the Crimes Act and allow 99% of women seeking an abortion to make their own decision in consultation with a health provider.

"We have been waiting a very long time for a government to take action to modernise our laws. We’ve gone through a rigorous Law Commission review which has moved us a long way forward. Now, we support the Government and the Select Committee process and the time frame for change," Ms Edmond says.

Under the proposed new laws, abortion would be removed from the Crimes Act and overseen by the Ministry of Health. Under the proposed legislation, there would be a statutory test only for abortions over 20 weeks gestation. This means that women seeking an abortion for a pregnancy that had progressed to 20 weeks or more would require approval from a doctor that statutory grounds had been met for a legal abortion.

"It is our hope that this legislative process can happen in a way that is non-judmental, compassionate and respectful and that we remember this is people’s lives we are talking about. We owe it to the people who have made and who will make the decision to have an abortion to have these conversations respectfully."

The three models for reform identified by the Law Commission:

Model A: A woman consults with her health practitioner and there is no legal test.

Model B: There are few changes under this model. The health practitioner still uses a legal test to approve an abortion for a woman, who has to prove she meets the grounds.

Model C: A woman consults with her health practitioner and there is no legal test unless the pregnancy is beyond 22 weeks.

ENDS


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