28 Sep 2012

Govt not swayed by calls to decriminalise abortion

8:55 pm on 28 September 2012

The Government does not plan to re-enter the abortion debate, despite new calls by women's health groups for its decriminalisation.

The debate reignited on Friday, the International Day for the Decriminalisation of Abortion.

To mark the day three groups - the Abortion Law Reform Association, Family Planning and Women's Health Action - formed a coalition calling for abortion to be decriminalised.

A spokesperson for Justice Minister Judith Collins says the Government has no plans to review the abortion laws.

Jackie Edmond from Family Planning says many New Zealanders still do not know that abortion is a criminal offence.

She says New Zealand women make thoughtful choices about abortion and decriminalisation will not trivialise the issue.

Abortion is technically illegal but is allowed where pregnancy may damage the mother's physical or mental well-being.

An Otago University law dean, Mark Benaghan, says the unusual law is a way of compromising between supporters and opponents of abortion.

He says the Government entrusts individual doctors to enforce the law with minimum supervision.

About 17.000 abortions are carried out every year in New Zealand, with more than 300,000 carried out since 1977.