The Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion (Safe Areas) Amendment Act 2022 means a ‘Safe Area’ may be created around an abortion service provider’s premises. Certain behaviours are prohibited within a Safe Area.
Safe Areas aim to protect the safety, wellbeing, privacy and dignity of people who are accessing or providing abortion services.
Certain behaviours that may be considered distressing to a person accessing or providing abortion services, or attempting to stop a person from accessing or providing these services are prohibited within a Safe Area. More information can be found in the ‘Prohibited Behaviours’ section below.
A Safe Area can cover up to 150 metres around any premises where abortion services are provided. For example, a hospital or general practice. A Safe Area can include both the building in which the abortion services are provided, and the land surrounding the building.
Safe Areas will be determined on a case-by-case basis and are created as regulations under the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977. Safe Areas are not automatically created around any premises.
Applying for a Safe Area
The Ministry of Health is currently establishing a process that will allow abortion service providers to request that a Safe Area is created around their premises.
All requests for Safe Areas will be considered on a case-by-case basis. This includes considering the risk to the safety, wellbeing, privacy and dignity of people accessing or providing abortion services, and how this is balanced against limiting people’s rights and freedoms within a democratic society.
The application process for Safe Areas is under development. It is expected that providers will be able to start applying for Safe Areas within the first half of 2022.
Once an application is received by the Ministry of Health, the process to recommend any new Safe Area regulations will need to follow the requirements of the Act and standard Government procedures for making regulations. This process may take up to six months.
The Ministry will provide further information, including guidance on the application process and how to complete an application, as this becomes available.
If you are a provider of abortion services and are considering applying for a Safe Area, you are welcome to get in touch via [email protected].
Privacy of abortion service providers
While the Ministry of Health holds a list of abortion service providers, providers are not required to have their details publicly listed.
The location of Safe Areas and the organisations with a Safe Area will be publicly available.
All Safe Area regulations will be published via the New Zealand Legislation website and notified in the New Zealand Gazette. This is the standard process for all secondary legislation created under an Act.
The behaviours prohibited in a Safe Area are outlined in section 13A(1) of the Act. Examples of prohibited behaviour include:
- blocking entrances to premises or preventing people from entering or leaving
- photographing or videoing someone in a manner that is likely to cause emotional distress to someone accessing or providing abortion-related services
- approaching a person to provide information about abortion services (unless part of the provision of services)
- approaching a person to attempt to dissuade them from accessing these services
- providing anti-abortion pamphlets or similar materials (unless part of the provision of services, or by a person who is accompanying the person accessing services)
- engaging in protest about matters relating to the provision of abortion services.
Enforcement of Safe Areas
New Zealand Police will primarily be responsible for the enforcement of Safe Areas. A person convicted of engaging in prohibited behaviour within a Safe Area may be liable for a fine of up to $1,000.
Providers are expected to support the enforcement of a Safe Area around their premises by putting in place appropriate preventative measures. This may include signage to indicate the boundary of the Safe Area, staff training on prohibited behaviours, and procedures to de-escalate incidents.
Where necessary, an individual or provider can contact the Police if they think a Safe Area regulation has been breached. The Police may require the person to stop the prohibited behaviour, and if the person refuses, they may be arrested.
Abortion service providers are advised to build relationships with their local Police department in advance of a Safe Area being established to discuss how best to contact them if this is required.
In an emergency, 111 should be called.
About the Safe Areas Amendment Act
The Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion (Safe Areas) Amendment Act 2022 came into force on 19 March 2022.
The amendment allows for the creation of prescribed Safe Areas under the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act (1977). All Safe Areas will be created as regulations under section 13(C) of the Act.
Safe Area regulations can only be created by the Governor-General, by Order in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Health, in consultation with the Minister of Justice.
The Regulatory Assurance team within the Ministry of Health is responsible for administering the Safe Areas application process and overseeing all new Safe Area regulations.
More information about the development and making of regulations can be found on the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet website.
Review of regulations
All new Safe Area regulations must be reviewed at least every five years by the Director-General of Health, in consultation with the Secretary for Justice.
The review is to determine whether the prescribed Safe Areas are still desirable and demonstrably justifiable, or whether they should be amended or revoked.