The New Zealand government released long-awaited plans Monday to overhaul its abortion laws, so that termination is treated as a health issue and a woman’s choice rather than a crime.
The bill, to be introduced to parliament on Thursday, will be a conscience vote rather than along party lines.
New Zealand currently has restrictive laws listing abortion as a crime, but with a loophole that gives a woman access to termination if two doctors agree a pregnancy would put her in physical or mental danger.
“Abortion is the only medical procedure that is still a crime in New Zealand. It’s time for this to change,” Justice Minister Andrew Little said when releasing details of the proposed changes, after months of wrangling within the three-party ruling coalition.
“This bill will modernise the laws on abortion, by removing it from the Crimes Act and bringing the law into line with many other developed countries.
“Safe abortion should be treated and regulated as a health issue; a woman has the right to choose what happens to her body.”
MPs with religious objections are likely to vote against or abstain.
The lobby group Abortion Rights Aotearoa hailed the announcement as “a huge step forward” but questioned the need for a 20-week limit