New Zealand Abortion Law


The abortion law of New Zealand appears to have been interpreted very liberally over recent years by sectors of the medical profession. Indeed the interpretation of the law appears to have been so liberal that it raises questions as to the lawfulness of many of the abortions carried out in New Zealand.

 

Liability of Health Professionals for a
Breach of the Abortion Law of New Zealand

Ian Bassett LLB (Hons) (Auckland), LLM (Cambridge), AAMINZ

An edited verion of this article was published in (2001) 9 Journal of Law & Medicine 115

 

Since the above Journal of Law and Medicine article was published in 2001 there have been various legal developments, though the general liability issues remain. In particular, between 2005 and 2012 there was litigation between Right to Life New Zealand Inc and the Abortion Supervisory Committee, regarding the powers and functions of the Committee.

An executive summary of the legal findings of the Courts in the litigation is provided (click here for the executive summary). A broader summary of the litigation (including an outline of legal submissions and court decisions) between 2005 and 2012 is provided in the seminar paper presented on 1 November 2012 (click here for the seminar paper). The relevant court judgments in that litigation were as follows.

High Court

On 9 June 2008 Miller J of the High Court of New Zealand at Wellington delivered a judgment in Right to Life New Zealand Inc v The Abortion Supervisory Committee CIV 2005-485-999 (click here for the judgment; also reported [2008] 2 NZLR 825 (HC)) regarding the law as to the functions and powers of the Abortion Supervisory Committee (refer in particular to paragraph [5](d) of the judgment).

On 3 August 2009 Miller J in the High Court delivered a further judgment in Right to Life New Zealand Inc v The Abortion Supervisory Committee CIV 2005-485-000 (click here for the judgment) declining to make a declaration.

Court of Appeal

The Abortion Supervisory Committee appealed to the Court of Appeal and Right to Life New Zealand Inc cross appealed. At the hearing in the Court of Appeal on 6 October 2010 counsel for Right to Life New Zealand Inc made submissions opposing the appeal and in support of the cross appeal regarding the issue of the rights of the unborn child (click here for a copy of the written submissions tendered to the Court of Appeal regarding the cross appeal only). The Court of Appeal delivered its judgment dated 1 June 2011 (click here for the judgment; also reported [2012] 1 NZLR 176 (CA)) by allowing the appeal (by a 2-1 majority decision) regarding the powers of the Abortion Supervisory Committee and dismissing the cross appeal (by a 3-0 decision) regarding the rights of the unborn child and independent counselling for women.

Supreme Court

Right to Life New Zealand Inc sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. In a decision on 26 August 2011 the Supreme Court (click here for the judgment) granted Right to Life New Zealand Inc leave to appeal in relation to certain issues (including regarding the powers of the Abortion Supervisory Committee), but declined leave to appeal regarding the issues of the rights of the unborn child and independent counselling for women.

The appeal was heard in the Supreme Court on 13 March 2012. A transcript of the oral argument can be read at http://www.courtsofnz.govt.nz/from/transcripts/supreme-court-transcripts-2012/SC-73-2011-Right-to-Life-New-Zealand-Inc-v-The.pdf

The Supreme Court delivered its judgment on 9 August 2012 (click here for the judgment; also reported [2012] 3 NZLR 762 (SC)) declining (by a 3-2 majority decision) the appeal by Right to Life Inc.

Right to Life Inc applied to recall that part of the judgment which dealt with costs, but the recall application was declined by the Supreme Court on 25 October 2012 (click here for the judgment).