[FOCUS] Handicap: extending New Zealand’s law on abortion?

Publié le : 16 June 2014

General elections will be held next September in New Zealand. Although elections do not get much coverage in the international press, abortion and, more precisely, abortion due to a handicap, seem to be divisive campaign topics in the Antipodes. 

Current New Zealand legislation on abortion is as follows: According to the 1961 Crimes Act (Section 187 A), any act that allows abortion is “done unlawfully unless, in the case of a pregnancy not exceeding 20 weeks’ gestation, the person doing the act believes:     
– that the continuance of the pregnancy would result in serious danger to the life, or to the physical or mental health, of the woman or girl,   
– or that there is a substantial risk that the child, if born, would be so physically or mentally abnormal as to be seriously handicapped
According to the Crimes Act, abortion due to a handicap is prohibited after the twentieth week of pregnancy. 


As part of their campaign for the forthcoming general elections, the Green Party announced in a press release on its website that it intends to extend conditions granting access to abortion. Their aim: to decriminalise abortion by authorising abortion after the twentieth week of pregnancy in the case of “severe foetal abnormalities”.


This proposal is raising serious concerns amongst some New Zealand associations such as Saving Downs – Downs for Down Syndrome (“trisomie 21” in French. In fact, these serious abnormalities would be largely supported by the Greens and would include Down syndrome and Spina Bifida in particular. This type of perspective is also worrying pro-life associations considering that the number of abortions has tended to fall slightly in recent years: a drop from 14,745 in 2012 to 14,073 in 2013.

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