Wellington: The New Zealand government on Monday announced a bill to decriminalize abortion so that it can treated as a health issue, rather than a crime.
The reform bill proposes removing any statutory medical exam for women not more than 20 weeks into their pregnancy and includes the setting up of "safe areas" near abortion facilities to prevent women from being harassed or attacked, Efe news quoted Justice Minister Andrew Little as saying in a statement.
"Safe abortion should be treated and regulated as a health issue; a woman has the right to choose what happens to her body," Little said.
"Abortion is the only medical procedure that is still a crime in New Zealand. It's time for this to change."
The bill, which will have its first reading in the New Zealand parliament on Thursday, also requires a heath practitioner to authorize women who are more than 20 weeks pregnant to terminate the pregnancy if it poses a risk to their mental and physical health as well as their well-being.
It also proposes that doctors opposed to providing abortion services on the grounds of conscience must inform pregnant women, who may seek services elsewhere, as well as that women be able to self-refer to a service provider, and health practitioners will advise women of counselling services available.
Currently, abortion is considered a crime in New Zealand, although women can terminate their pregnancies if two doctors consider it advisable for physical and mental health reasons.