Evolution of the Abortion Law and its Practice in Poland Against the Background of the Current Legal Framework in New Zealand

Author: Eska-Mikołajewska, J
Published in National Security Journal, 05 April 2021

The public debate intensified in 1970s when numerous anti-abortion and abortion rights groups emerged.54 The impetus for legal changes was the opening of the first abortion clinic in New Zealand (the Auckland Medical Aid Centre, AMAC). In response to growing public debate around abortion, a Royal Commission on Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion was set up to consider public policy on these socially sensitive issues. As a result of the Royal Commission’s work – the Sterilisation and Abortion – the Contraception Sterilisation and Abortion Act (CS&A) 1977 was adopted and established the legal framework for abortion in New Zealand for the next several decades.55

According to this Act, pregnancy could be terminated only in the event of a threat to the life and health of the mother or serious fetal defects and had to be approved by a doctor and two medical consultants. Despite the intention of Parliament in 1977 that abortion should not be available on request, it is arguable that in New Zealand on the ground of CS&A we have had “de facto abortion on request”. It has been suggested that some consultants approve almost every women’s request, which would indicate that the laws were operating more liberally in practice than they were intended to.56

In 1977, the Crimes Act 196157 was also amended to allow abortion within 20 weeks of pregnancy. After this period, abortion was permitted in order to save the mother’s life and to prevent serious, permanent damage to her mental and physical health. In 1978, another amendment to the 1961 Act allowed for an abortion to save the mother’s life, mental and physical health, abnormalities of the fetus in the 20th week of pregnancy and incest or sexual intercourse with guardians and family members. In the light of this Act, such premises as rape, extreme age or various social and economic factors were not the basis for legal abortion in New Zealand.58

Subsequent attempts to reform the abortion law were made in the first years of the 21st century. In July 2001, the Fifth Labour Government agreed to amend the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977 to allow one doctor to approve an abortion. The proposed amendment also explored the grounds for the possible de-criminalization of abortion. Hovewer, those amendments to the existing legislation were not adopted due to the growing instability in the Labour – Alliance coalition government.59