A woman seeking an abortion in New Zealand has to jump through around a dozen hoops to get the procedure.

This is compared to some states in America where it is a one-step process.

The Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand has published two diagrams of the processes side by side to show how difficult it is for Kiwi women.

Kiwi women wait on average 25 days between their first visit with the referring doctor and the date of their termination.

ALRANZ president Terry Bellamak believed this was too long, especially if a pregnancy was discovered late in gestation. She said that most of the steps were outdated, unnecessary and didn’t deliver better healthcare as a result.

“A lot of people by the time they’re ready to go talk to their doctor they’ve already made up their mind.

“What I’d like to see is a law that reflects trust in pregnant people because they know what is best for themselves and they are the only people with a right to make that decision … [Currently], it’s just kind of ridiculous.”

The flow chart shows that from asking a GP for a referral to getting a medical abortion would take nine steps. And that’s a “best case scenario” Bellamak said. Instead some women often have to do some steps multiple times, such as finding a GP who will refer them.

The process to get an abortion in New Zealand.
The process in the USA in the 1980s. Today some states have changed the process while others have maintained this simplicity.

The last abortion statistics report showed terminations dropped to the lowest rate in over 25 years. The general abortion rate – abortions per 1000 women aged 15-44 – was 13.5 per 1000 women in 2016, down from 14.2 in 2015.

Statistics NZ reported that the abortion rates for younger women have fallen significantly in recent years whereas the rate has stayed the same for older women.

Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond said the drop was partially due to the increase in women using long-acting reversible contraception such as the implant and the IUD. They were more effective as they weren’t as exposed to human error.

A Ministry of Health spokesperson said that the Government was reviewing abortion law to ensure the laws are consistent with treating abortion as a health issue. This work is being undertaken by the Law Commission, with the advice of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Justice and a report is expected to be published towards the end of the year.

“It would be inappropriate for the Ministry to comment on abortion legislation and processes while this review is under way.”

Bellamak compared the New Zealand process to what occurred in the 1980s in America as now some US states had change while others had stayed pretty much the same.

“It’s a clear and compelling illustration of how difficult it really is to access abortion here, and of how dysfunctional our abortion laws are.

“Accessing abortion does not need to be this difficult.”

Under New Zealand’s 1977 abortion laws, two certifying consultants must approve every abortion under a set of grounds set out in the Crimes Act. Those grounds do not include rape, nor the most common reasons cited overseas: contraception failure and the inability to support a child.

“In order to simplify the process we need to change the law. And the law needs to take note that abortion is healthcare,” Bellamak said.

Source: NZ Herald

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