The New Zealand Greens has approved a formal policy on abortion. The ratification makes the Greens the only party in Parliament to have such a policy. The party will be legislating the decriminalisation of abortion and protect "the right to end a pregnancy."
Under New Zealand laws, abortion is a criminal offence. Unless a woman's pregnancy is endangering her life or her physical and mental health, abortion is not allowed. Reports said that abortion law is an issue lawmakers avoid despite repeated calls from abortion advocates to review and update existing laws.
For Green Party MP Jan Logie, it was time to have abortion removed from New Zealand's Crimes Act. Logie said the issue should be brought out from the "shadow of judgment" and "mistrust of women" since it remains a health issue.
According to Family Planning Chief Executive Jackie Edmond, not many women know about abortion being in the Crimes Act. She said women have to overcome obstacles to have an abortion.
The latest figures from Statistics New Zealand revealed that the abortion rate in 2012 dropped to a 17-year low. The abortion rate in New Zealand has declined to a 20-year low since fewer Kiwi women, especially teenagers, opted for the procedure.
The drop in New Zealand's abortion rate has been attributed to the wider use of contraceptives, better sex education and lessons from real-life experiences on reality TV. In 2012, the number of abortions was 14,745 compared to 18,382 in 2007. Most women who had abortions in New Zealand were identified as European. The rest were Maori, Asian and Pacific. The significant drop in the number of abortions is welcome news to Family Planning national medical adviser Christine Roke.
Edmond said there was no evidence of a link between decriminalising abortion and women using it as a form of contraception. She said abortion has always been a "hot potato" in politics, but the Green Party members are now in full support of the new abortion policy.
The Green Party's new policy will allow abortions after 20 weeks gestation and only when the woman is at risk of permanent injury or if the fetus has severe defects or abnormalities.