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New Zealand sets to decriminalize abortion

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand: The New Zealand government is set to legislate to decriminalise abortion in the country.

New Zealand’s parliament passed its first reading in the parliament with 94 votes to 23 Thursday.

The legislation, which was announced on Monday by the Justice Minister Andrew Little, is the first update to New Zealand’s abortion law in over 40 years.

“The biggest change is taking [abortion regulations] out of the criminal code, which is very positive,” Jackie Edmond, the chief executive of Family Planning, a New Zealand non-profit national sexual and reproductive health provider, said.

He said that abortion services are still managed through the Ministry of Justice, even though it’s a health service.”

Under current rules, abortion is only legal in the nation with the approval of two doctors, who must agree that continuing with a pregnancy poses a serious risk to the life or health of the mother, or in cases of incest, “mental sub normality”, or fetal abnormality. After 20 weeks of pregnancy, the criteria become stricter.

In the last 10 years, 2,566 women have been told that their request for an abortion was unjustified, according to a report from Stuff Circuit

Introducing the new legislation on Monday, Little said, “Abortion is the only medical procedure that is still a crime in New Zealand. It’s time for this to change.”

“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,” Little said.

“It certainly will make [abortion] less complex and more timely, and easier to access,” said Edmond. “And women can self-refer.”

There has never been a criminal conviction under current abortion rules in New Zealand – a fact that MPs opposing the changes have brought up. But that is not the point, according to Edmond.