Providing abortion counselling services

Abortion counselling is not mandatory, however people seeking abortion must be made aware that counselling is available. Abortion related counselling must be in line with the standard as outlined in this document.

The standard is firmly grounded in Te Tiriti and health equity practice and sets the expectation of what Manatū Hauora expects of those delivering abortion related counselling.

The standard outlines what abortion counselling is, who can provide abortion counselling and the principles. It sets out the connection with Ngā Paerewa Health and Disability Services Standard NZS 8134:2021 and sets out the rights of people receiving abortion counselling.

The standard outlines who can deliver abortion counselling services

Practitioners providing abortion counselling must not hold any conscientious objection to abortion or abortion counselling. Where registration is a requirement of the scope of practice, it is expected practitioners' registration is current. ​

Examples include: ​

  • qualified and registered social workers​
  • qualified counsellors 
  • qualified counsellors who are members of the New Zealand Association of Counsellors​
  • qualified counsellors who are members of the New Zealand Christian Counsellors Association (NZCCA) ​
  • qualified and registered psychologists​
  • qualified and registered psychotherapists​.

Training for counsellors

The first trimester abortion training package has been developed by the NZ College of Sexual and Reproductive Health (NZCSRH) and is available on the NZCSRH website. The first part of the training is about Consultation – Communication and Decision-Making and is relevant for abortion counsellors. This training is free to access.

Cultural safety

To practise cultural safety, service providers and health care and support workers must acknowledge and address their own biases, attitudes, assumptions, stereotypes, prejudices, structures and characteristics that may affect the quality of the service they provide.  

Cultural safety must be part of professional development – and part of counsellors’ own scopes of practice for their relevant professional memberships or registrations. ​This means ensuring critically reflective supervision and continuing professional development are ongoing features of social work practice.

We advise counsellors to speak to their employer, professional college and/or member organisation about ones relevant for them.

Questions and answers

Is it true abortion counsellors must be free of conscientious objection?

Yes. Practitioners providing abortion counselling must not hold any conscientious objection to abortion or abortion counselling.

What if a person wants their partner or family/whānau included in counselling session?

Whānau participation is an important aspect of abortion counselling. As part of ensuring services are patient-centred, counsellors should have their own policies in place for whānau participation. Patients should be empowered to decide to include whānau in their counselling sessions if they choose.

Is there training on contraception? Is contraception part of the advice to be given during the counselling?

Health practitioners will talk to the person about their contraceptive options as choice of contraception often depends on the person’s medical history and clinical assessment – however abortion counsellors should be aware of different contraceptive options available.

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