Even though New Zealand has had a history of progressive stances when it came to gender equality, the sexual and reproductive rights scenario took a while to catch on. In a revolutionary hearing in March 2020, New Zealand finally eased the laws on abortions making safe and legal abortions accessible to over 13000 women per year.[1] In this article, we trace Abortion Rates And History Of The Abortion Pill In New Zealand. Learn more about abortions in New Zealand on our specific page for the country: https://www.howtouseabortionpill.org/abortion-laws-by-country/newZealand/

Induced Abortion Rates

According to Statistics New Zealand, 13,282 induced abortions had been performed in New Zealand in 2018. There were 13.5 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years in 2018, down from 13.7 per 1,000 women in 2017. In December 2019, 12,857 induced abortions were performed in New Zealand, down from 13,282 the previous year. The general abortion rate was 13.1 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years, down slightly from 13.7 per 1,000 in 2018. Women aged 20–24 had the highest abortion rates (19.5 abortions per 1,000 women), down from 20.5 in 2018. 51 percent of all abortions were for women aged in their 20s, 39 percent of all abortions were for women aged 30 years and over, compared with 27 percent in 2009.The median age of women having an abortion in 2019 was 28.1 years, up from 24.4 years in 2009. 64 percent of abortions were performed before the 10th week of the pregnancy, up from 50 percent in 2009 and 18 percent of known pregnancies (live births, stillbirths, and abortions) ended in an abortion.[2]

The Archives

New Zealand has had a long and complicated history when it comes to abortions and the legalities around them. It was only in March 2020, that New Zealand decriminalised abortions. For more than 40 years, abortion was the only medical procedure considered a crime in New Zealand – unless it was performed under exceptional circumstance.[3] New Zealand’s existing law on abortion, adopted in 1977 and amended a few times, treated termination, even early in pregnancy, as a crime, though officials say that no one has ever been prosecuted for it. The new law removes it from the criminal statutes, and provides no penalties for violation. Previously, two doctors were required to approve an abortion – and this could only happen if there was a “serious danger” to the pregnant woman’s health.The reform bill, issued by Jacinda Ardern’s government, means that a woman no longer has to be assessed by a health practitioner for mental or physical wellbeing before 20 weeks.[4] On a more specific note, Mifegyne was imported from the French manufacturers by a not-for-profit company called Istar Ltd, andwas approved for medical abortions by the New Zealand Ministry of Health in August 2001.[5] In 2002, Istar convinced the Abortion Supervisory Committee to seek a Court ruling on how the CS&A Act 1977 applied to the use of mifepristone. In April 2003, Justice Durie ruled that women seeking medical abortions must take medications in a licensed facility but need not remain there between taking the two sets of tablets, which are taken 48 hours apart. Women also need not stay in the facility until the expulsion of the fetus completes the abortion.[6]

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By Harshita Chhatlani
A chai-enthusiast, Harshita is the founder of The Safe Space Project. She is a feminist who believes that the future is intersectional.