Legal Key Issues -Abortion

Abortion as a Legal Right

Abortion advocates state that abortion should be legal because abortion protects a woman's health and even her life. Others point out that, with advances in medicine, it is now possible for almost every woman to come through pregnancy alive.

Doctors & NZ Law

Abortion is unlawful in NZ except under four provisions and two other possible determining factors. Exceptions are:
  • "serious danger" to the woman's life, physical or mental health
  • substantial risk that the child, would be "so physically or mentally abnormal as to be seriously handicapped"
  • pregnancy results from incest or an incest-like act
  • where the woman is "severely subnormal"

  • Interpretation of NZ Law

    Although abortion is allowed by law, where it meets certain strict criteria, the situation exists where abortion is recognised to be available on demand. In the past the Courts have ruled that certifying consultants are basically immune from criminal prosecution. They may still be at risk of civil claims however.

    The Unborn Child

    There have been differing interpretations internationally of whether the right to life applies to the unborn child. The law in New Zealand states that abortions may be authorised, "...after having full regard to the rights of the unborn child.”


    The liberal interpretation of the law relating to abortion in New Zealand, not only raises question as to the legality of many abortions, but may expose certifying consultants and those who perform abortions to criminal proceedings and civil claims.

    Abortion Supervisory Committee

    The ASC in New Zealand ais responsible for keeping under review, all the provisions of the abortion law in New Zealand. While the ASC has admitted that "abortion on demand' exists, the committee says that its powers are limited.


    The Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand (ALRANZ) was a major abortion advocacy and action group in the fight to legalise abortion in New Zealand. They are still active today, lobbying parliamentarians when attempts are made to restrict abortion services and commenting in the media on abortion-related issues.