Abortion Law Reform

In March 2020, changes were made to the primary legislation for abortion, including the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977 and the Crimes Act 1961. Changes were also made to the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 (the HPCAA) and the Health and Disability Commissioner Act 1994.

These changes largely decriminalised abortion, better aligned the regulation of abortion services with other health services and modernised the legal framework for abortion services in Aotearoa New Zealand. The key changes:

  • Allow a woman to self-refer to an abortion service provider.
  • Allow a wider range of registered health practitioners, not just doctors, to provide abortions (subject to scopes of practice and education).
  • Remove the requirement that abortions may only be performed in licenced premises.

For midwives, these changes mean that they could provide early medical abortion services in the community; and mid and late-term midwifery-led abortion care within an appropriate facility once they have completed the required education.

In February 2022, Te Tatau o te Whare Kahu | Midwifery Council (the Council) agreed to regulate midwifery-led abortion care through an additional Scope of Practice. Work to draft the new Scope of Practice, standards of competence and qualification for midwifery led abortion care is now in progress.

Understanding the change to the legislation

All practising midwives must complete the course Introduction to the Abortion Legislation and Midwifery Roles and Responsibilities.

This Abortion Law Reform education is focussed on the change in law and what that means for all health practitioners – midwives included - regardless of their belief systems.

Completion of this education does not mean that a midwife will be able to provide abortion care – midwives will need to complete further education if they want to offer midwifery-led abortion care.

The Council acknowledges that some midwives may not want to participate in and provide abortion care on their own responsibility - it is their right to determine if they will do so.

Otago Polytechnic | Te Kura Matatini ki Otago has provided self-enrolment instructions for the course. To start learning right away, please click HERE and follow the step-by-step guide. Please ensure that you select the "other users" option to log in.

Once you have completed this course, please remember to update your MyMCANZ continuing education profile and save your certificate in your portfolio.

All midwives must complete this education module by 31/3/2023. This is part of the recertification programme for all midwives.