Wellington: The New Zealand government on Monday announced a bill to decriminalise abortion which will enable women to treat it as a health issue rather than a crime.
The bill will allow women here to have access to abortions until 20 weeks of pregnancy without having to go through legal constraints, under a law change proposed by the Government, the New Zealand Herald reported.
Justice Minister Andrew Little announced the details of the long-awaited bill aimed at decriminalising abortion – the first major reform in more than four decades.
Other changes include allowing authorities to set up “safe zones” around clinics to keep protesters away and letting women refer themselves to providers.
Abortion is currently viewed as a crime in New Zealand, but exemptions mean women can still get access if two doctors agree that a pregnancy would put them in physical or mental risk.
Under the new law, the decision will be up to the woman, in consultation with her doctor, until 20 weeks of pregnancy.
After that, the person performing the procedure will have to “reasonably believe the abortion is appropriate with regard to the pregnant woman’s physical and mental health, and wellbeing”.
Medical practitioners who did not comply with the provisions of the bill will face consequences from their medical bodies, rather than under the Crimes Act, Little told the reporters here.
“Abortion is the only medical procedure that is still a crime in New Zealand. It’s time for this to change,” Little stressed.
“Safe abortion should be treated and regulated as a health issue; a woman has the right to choose what happens to her body,” he was quoted as saying.
The bill, he added, would also no longer be a crime if women induced their own miscarriages.