Information on abortion services in New Zealand, including how to access abortion care, what help is available and how to provide feedback about abortion services.
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.
Information about pregnancy options, including where to access abortion services, can be found on the DECIDE website. 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. This includes providing advice, counselling and telephone early medical abortion. Read more about DECIDE.
A health practitioner, such as your doctor, nurse or midwife can also 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.
There are ways to access help, support or more information:
- Visit DECIDE or call 0800 DECIDE (0800 332 433)
- Talk to your general practitioner (GP)
- Contact your local Family Planning clinic
- Call an abortion service provider in your area
Accessing abortion services
Abortion is legal in New Zealand, and changes in the law in 2020 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.
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. Whānau may support you during counselling sessions.
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.
In this case, they must tell you at the earliest opportunity. Then they must 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 make a formal complaint to the Ministry of Health or the Health and Disability Commissioner.
If it is a medical emergency and you require urgent care, they must help you.
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, there are several options:
- you can contact the service provider directly eg, the general practice or hospital where you received treatment
- you can contact Ministry of Health – Manatū Hauora via email [email protected].
You can also contact Health and Disability Commissioner for advice and support with making a complaint.
General information about abortion methods
Two different methods of abortion are used in New Zealand:
- Medical abortion – this involves taking pills to end the pregnancy.
- 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 Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977 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.