Information on abortion

Information on abortion services in New Zealand, including who can perform an abortion, and how to access abortion care.

COVID-19 update
Please note that abortion services are available during all COVID-19 Alert Levels.

Abortion law in Aotearoa

On 24 March 2020 changes were made to the law around abortion services. Abortion is now legal in New Zealand under the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977 (the Act). 

Changes were also made to make it easier for people to access abortion services. You no longer need to be referred by a doctor in order to have an abortion, and counselling is not mandatory. A wider range of health practitioners, like nurses and general practitioners, can now prescribe abortion medication.

The abortion legislation is available on the New Zealand Legislation website:

About abortion services

Two different methods of abortion are used in New Zealand:

  1. Medical abortion – this involves taking pills to end the pregnancy.
  2. Surgical abortion – this involves a minor operation.

The type of procedure available to you may depend on a number of factors, including how far along you are in your pregnancy as well as social and clinical factors. 

Abortion is generally a safe procedure, but requires different interventions as the pregnancy progresses. It is best to talk to a health practitioner as soon as you can.

Abortions can be provided by doctors, midwives, and some nurses. They must hold a current practising certificate, have the necessary qualifications, and have abortion permitted within their scope of practice. 

This means that a health practitioner, like a doctor or nurse, may be able to provide some abortion services but not others. For example, they may be able to prescribe abortion medication, but not perform a surgical abortion.  

More detailed information about abortion services can be found here:

Abortion before 20 weeks gestation

If you are less than 20 weeks pregnant, a qualified health practitioner may provide abortion services.

In New Zealand, most abortions (91% in 2020) occur during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (in the first trimester). 

Abortion after 20 weeks gestation 

If you are more than 20 weeks pregnant, a qualified health practitioner may provide abortion services if they believe it is clinically appropriate in the circumstances. They will take into account your physical and mental health, overall wellbeing, and the gestational age of the fetus. 

The practitioner must consult with another qualified health practitioner before providing an abortion after 20 weeks, but they do not need to agree. 

A very small percentage of abortions (0.9% in 2020) occur after 20 weeks.

Cost

Most abortion services and related counselling services are free in New Zealand to any pregnant person eligible for publicly funded health care. However, you may need to pay for an ultrasound scan. 

Your health practitioner should advise you if there is a cost.    

Sex selection abortion 

New Zealand’s Parliament opposes sex-selective abortions. Abortion providers are required to collect information on the number of enquiries they have had for abortion solely due to a preference for a particular fetal sex. 

Live birth after an intended abortion

From 22 weeks of pregnancy, feticide (an injection to stop the fetal heart) takes place prior to the abortion. 

It is very unlikely that a live birth occurs after an intended abortion.

If a live birth did occur, there is a requirement to provide appropriate care in the same way as for any other baby.

What care is appropriate in the circumstances will depend on the health of the neonate; the gestational age at birth; clinical assessment by a qualified health practitioner and the beliefs and wishes of family and whānau. Appropriate care will be determined by the health practitioner in accordance with relevant standards and best practice guidance, and in consultation with the parent(s).

COVID-19 vaccination

Evidence shows that pregnant people, and those who have recently given birth, miscarried, or had a termination of pregnancy are at greater risk of becoming unwell if infected with COVID-19. 

The Pfizer vaccine has been proven safe for pregnant people and those who have recently miscarried or had a termination. It is recommended that vaccination options are discussed with any unvaccinated patients attending your service.

Accessing abortion services

You do not need to be referred by a doctor in order to have an abortion. You can ring the abortion provider in your area directly to make an appointment. It may be helpful to visit a doctor or nurse to confirm how many weeks pregnant you are. Your doctor may carry out some other tests and ask you to have an ultrasound scan.

You do not have to tell your friends or family you are having an abortion.

Abortion services are available to everyone in New Zealand who is eligible (NZ Citizen/Permanent resident) to access health services. In some regions, you may have to travel to a nearby area to access the service.

See our list of abortion service providers to find out about services in your area.

Conscientious objection

Some health practitioners (or other staff members, such as receptionists) may have a conscientious objection to abortion. This means they can decline to discuss, provide or assist with an abortion. 

They must tell you if this is the case at the earliest opportunity. They must also tell you how to access the contact details of the closest doctor, nurse or midwife who can provide the service. If they don’t, you can complain to the Health and Disability Commissioner.

Help and support

Finding out you are pregnant is different for everyone. If you are pregnant and are considering an abortion, there is help available. 

Your health practitioner, such as a doctor, nurse or midwife can provide more information about abortion services, and help you to find a trained counsellor if you need support, before or after an abortion. Abortion services can also refer you to a counsellor.

For more information:

Making a complaint

Abortion is a health service. Health practitioners must follow the law, as well as certain regulations, standards and guidelines.

If you want to make a complaint, or have feedback, contact the service provider eg the GP or hospital where you received treatment.

You can also contact Health and Disability Commissioner directly, who deal with concerns about health and disability services.

People can also provide feedback about their experiences with abortion services to the Ministry by emailing [email protected].

In this section

  • Abortion services are available to people everywhere in New Zealand, but in some regions you may have to travel to a nearby area to access the service. Read more
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