There are two legislative acts which govern abortion in New Zealand.  These are the Crimes Act, 1961 and the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act of 1977.

Crimes Act 1961

The Crimes Act (#182-187A) is concerned about outlining the situations when an abortion is deemed acceptable.

This legislation is meant to protect women from prosecution and from being taken advantage of by physicians.  While abortion is technically illegal, the legislation outlines the situations when exceptions can be made.

The following are important points from the legislation:

  • No one can be held liable for causing the death of an unborn child either before or during birth if the methods employed were to save the life of the mother (see #182(2)).
  • The woman or girl cannot be charged as a party to the offence of intending to procure a miscarriage (see #183(2)).

The exceptions:

Abortion is lawful throughout all nine months of pregnancy if it is undertaken to save the life of the woman or girl, or to prevent serious danger to her physical her mental health (see #187A).

Before 20 weeks gestation

  • risk of mental or physical disability;
  • the pregnancy is a result of incest;
  • the woman or girl is intellectually disabled.

The following matters can be taken into account, although they are not reasons for an abortion by themselves:

  • the age of the woman or girl (either at the very beginning or nearing the end of childbearing years);
  • sexual violation.

Any medical practitioner who carries out an abortion after two certifying consultants have issued a certificate, cannot be held liable for an unlawful abortion unless they believed it was unlawful at the time of carrying out the procedure.

Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act, 1977

Parliament passed the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act on 16th December, 1977.  Its purpose is to regulate the administration of abortion in New Zealand.