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.

For information on where to find your nearest abortion provider go to DECIDE, or contact the Ministry of Health [email protected]

Need more information or to talk to someone?

Information about pregnancy options, including where to access abortion services, can be found on the DECIDE website – www.decide.org.nz

You can also call freephone 0800 DECIDE (0800 332 433) to speak to a trained health professional. They can give you information about your options or help you arrange in-person care.

DECIDE is the national abortion telehealth service, which can connect people anywhere in the country to abortion information and advice. In the future DECIDE will also offer counselling and early medical abortion via telehealth. Read more about DECIDE.

Accessing abortion services

Abortion is legal in New Zealand, and recent changes in the law made abortion easier to access in New Zealand Aotearoa.

A list of abortion providers is available on the DECIDE website. If an abortion service is not available in your local area, you may have to travel to another region to access the service.

You do not need to be referred by anyone to access abortion services. 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. They may also arrange for you to have an ultrasound or other tests to confirm and date the pregnancy.

Most abortion services are free for eligible people

Most abortion services and related counselling services are free in New Zealand to any pregnant person eligible for publicly funded health services (NZ Citizen/Permanent resident/appropriate visa).. However, you may need to pay for an ultrasound scan. Your health practitioner should advise you if there is a cost.

You can still access abortion services if you are not eligible for publicly funded health services, but you will likely have to pay for this care. More information is available on the DECIDE website.

Your rights when accessing abortion services

It is up to you as the pregnant person to decide if you want to have an abortion. You do not have to tell your partner, whānau or friends you are having an abortion, but you may find it helpful to talk to someone you trust.

You do not have to have counselling as part of accessing abortion services, but it must be available and offered to you.

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. 

If a person has a conscientious objection, they must tell you 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.

If it is a medical emergency and you require urgent care, they must help you.

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. 

A health practitioner, such as your doctor, nurse or midwife can provide more information about abortion services, and refer you to an abortion 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 are not happy with the service provided or want to make a complaint, you can contact the service provider directly eg, the general practice or hospital where you received treatment. You can also contact the Ministry of Health abortion services team with any concerns - [email protected].

You can also contact Health and Disability Commissioner for advice and support with making a complaint.

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, your medical history and access to support and emergency medical care.  

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 if you are considering an abortion.

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 on abortion methods can be found on the DECIDE website.

Abortion up to 20 weeks gestation

If you are not more than 20 weeks pregnant, a qualified health practitioner may provide abortion services without consulting another health practitioner.

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 consider 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.

Sex selection abortion

New Zealand’s Parliament opposes sex-selective abortions (as noted in the CSA Act). 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. A live birth sits outside the Abortion Contraception Sterilisation  Act and is no longer considered an abortion. As in all live births there is a requirement to provide care as required. This is a complex matter and what care is relevant in the circumstances will depend on the clinical assessment of the baby by the health practitioner. A care plan will be developed in accordance with relevant standards and best practice guidance, and in consultation with the parent(s)

In situations where parents are unwilling or unable to provide care, Oranga Tamariki may be able to provide more advice on this issue.

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. Speak to your health practitioner for advice about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Read more about the COVID-19 vaccine and pregnancy.

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