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Abortion Decriminalised In New Zealand After Parliament Passes Historic Bill

Abortion is no longer a crime in New Zealand after the country's lawmakers passed a landmark bill in Parliament on Wednesday.

The historic vote which passed 68 to 51, will now see the removal of abortion from the Crimes Act, after decades of campaigning in the country.

New Zealand's Justice Minister Andrew Little said the new law was a long time coming, adding that abortion would now be "rightly treated" as a health issue and allow women to get advice and treatment "in a more timely way."

"For over forty years abortion has been the only medical procedure considered a crime in New Zealand," Little said in a statement after the bill passed.

"The previous law required women seeking an abortion to go through many hoops."

"That resulted in delays to access a procedure, and that was less safe."

Andrew Little speaks at a press conference in August 2019. Image: Getty

The new law will provide a statutory test for abortion for women who are more than 20 weeks pregnant.

It will also remove the legal obligation for a test for women less than 20 weeks pregnant, and instead allow for the decision to be made after consulting with a qualified medical practitioner.

Access to counseling services both before and after an abortion will also be strengthened, with the law requiring the Health Minister to take "reasonable steps" to ensure reproductive health services such as for abortion, counselling and contraception are available in the country.

“New Zealand women have campaigned for decades to have abortion treated as a health issue, instead of as a crime," Little said.

Today change has finally come, and safe abortion is legal in New Zealand.

The Bill was extensively debated by lawmakers before it passed, with plans for the reforms to be put to a public referendum reportedly scrapped earlier on Wednesday.

Local media reports that the bill will now go to the Governor-General for Royal Assent which will formalise it into law.