Mara Malagodi, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Faculty of Law
November 10, 2021
Recent legal changes in a number of jurisdictions that have entirely decriminalised abortion are steeped in the language of gender constitutionalism and human rights – whether these changes have taken place via constitutional litigation or statutory reform. As a result, the campaigns for complete decriminalisation in other jurisdictions have now begun to engage in a pragmatic comparative law exercise to advance their cause. Activists deploy the legal arguments and strategies marshalled in those jurisdictions that have completely removed abortion from the purview of their criminal laws alongside domestic constitutional principles and international human rights standards. As such, we are witnessing a global cross-pollination of legal ideas anchored in substantive notions of gender equality and human dignity to challenge legal restrictions to women’s bodily autonomy.
Abortion is the only medical procedure that continues to be consistently treated as a crime around the world. Even those jurisdictions that have partially liberalised their legal regimes continue to criminalise abortion outside of the terms explicitly provided by law. Only a handful of jurisdictions such as China (1979 – excluding Hong Kong and Macau), Canada (1988), Northern Ireland (2019), New Zealand (2020), and Australia (2021), have entirely removed abortion from the purview of their penal laws. Canada did so via constitutional litigation, while the other jurisdictions via statutory reform.
Local abortion services remain unavailable to people living in much of the sprawling South Auckland area - which has a population of close to 600,000 and encapsulates some of the most deprived suburbs of New Zealand - despite the issue being repeatedly raised for more than 12 years.
21 December 2020
People living within the Counties Manukau District Health Board (DHB) catchment who need an abortion must travel to the affluent central Auckland suburb of Greenlane. Experts say this creates an access barrier for South Auckland women.
Financial barriers created by the lack of a local service can include the cost of travel, childcare and taking time off work. For people living in Counties Manukau, where the population is younger, and more deprived than elsewhere in New Zealand, those costs can be significant. The area is also home to a high number of Pacific peoples, of whom 64 percent are 'highly deprived', according to Health Ministry data. The Counties Manukau DHB describes Pacific peoples' engagement with and access to health services when they need them as being "a challenge".
The Associate Health Minister says she's watching district health boards "very closely" after a survey found variations in abortion services offered across the country.
Dec 15, 2020
By Susan Strongman
It's been more than eight months since abortion law reform came into force, yet the Ministry of Health survey found in some parts of New Zealand early medical abortions - where two pills are taken to induce a miscarriage within the first nine weeks of pregnancy - are not locally available at all.
It also found significant differences in later gestation abortion services offered across DHBs, meaning it's harder form some people to access the procedure because of where they live.