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Law Commission recommendations on abortion law reform

November 16, 2018 at 2:49 PM

From the NZFVC

The Law Commission has submitted a briefing paper outlining recommendations on abortion law reform to Justice Minister Andrew Little.

Earlier this year, Justice Minister Andrew Little asked the Law Commission to provide advice on abortion law reform considering abortion as a health issue instead of a criminal issue. The Law Commission consulted with the health sector and received more than 3400 submissions from the public consultation process.

The report, Alternative approaches to abortion law: Ministerial briefing paper (October 2018), outlines three alternative legal models. It also outlines possible changes to criminal aspects of abortion law, access to abortion and related issues, including some recommendations that are not legislative. All models would remove abortion from the Crimes Act 1961 and remove the requirement for abortions to be approved by two certifying consultants (doctors).

For more information see the Law Commission website Alternative approaches to abortion law.


New report on reproductive coercion in Aotearoa New Zealand 

The National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges recently published findings from a study of reproductive coercion in Aotearoa New Zealand. Reproductive coercion is a form of intimate partner violence (IPV) that includes controlling access and tampering with contraceptives, pregnancy coercion, attempting to cause miscarriage, and intentional exposure to sexually transmitted infections. The study also looked at partner behaviours related to pregnancy, abortion and miscarriage; monitoring of sexuality as a form of control; and women's experiences of seeking help.

More than 80% of participants had experienced their partner controlling their access to contraceptives and nearly 60% experienced their partner tampering or sabotaging their method of contraceptives. The authors highlighted:

"In multiple accounts from participants, their partners cited pregnancy as a method for entrapping them in the relationship, thereby explicitly exploiting their sexual and reproductive experiences and vulnerability for the purpose of controlling them to the extent that they cannot leave the relationship."

Many participants reported partners' efforts to control the outcomes of their pregnancy including a partner preventing accessing to abortion (34.8%), a partner trying to coerce them into terminating a pregnancy (27%), and a partner deliberately trying to cause a miscarriage (31.7%). 

Many participants reported other forms of IPV including sexual, physical, psychological, economic and spiritual violence and abuse. 

Less than 30% of participants had a professional ask about IPV when they seeking pregnancy or contraceptive support. Just over 4% were specifically asked about reproductive control or coercion. Participants provided suggestions for professionals to screen for and respond to disclosures of reproductive coercion including:

  • "Education and information on reproductive coercion and intimate partner violence so people can understand their experiences and have the words to describe it
  • Privacy during appointments with professionals, namely, having appointments without their partners and others present
  • Approaching conversations with sensitivity and empathy, and asking questions genuinely rather than as a tick box exercise or with preconceptions about the person who walks in and their relationship
  • Asking questions broadly about their partners’ behaviours and how they feel about their relationship and pregnancy
  • Providing information on the client/patients’ options and rights (including immediately post birth), and following through with actions, solutions or referrals where necessary based on what the client/patient wants (e.g. discrete and long-acting and reversible methods of contraception, or referrals for an abortion)
  • Meeting any disclosures of abuse and reproductive coercion with non-judgement, belief and support the client/patient to put their partner’s behaviours into context, i.e. reassuring them that it is not their fault that t heir partner is abusing them."

See the full report, Reproductive Coercion in Aotearoa New Zealand (2018), for detailed findings.

Category: Reviews