The UN CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women) committee has called on the New Zealand government to reform NZ’s “convoluted” abortion laws “to ensure women’s autonomy to choose”, among other things. Read what the Committee, in its “concluding observations” on New Zealand’s seventh report, has to say on abortion. And we’ve put, in pdf form, the whole 11 pages of the Committee’s report here so you can download it.

And, what we said in our media release when NZ’s rep was being questioned by the committee still stands, i.e. we again call for the Government to review our abortion laws.

Dated 27 July 2012.

33. The Committee commends the State party for its advocacy on the protection of women’s sexual and reproductive health rights and prevention of maternal mortality. The Committee notes with concern, however, the convoluted abortion laws which require women to get certificates from two certified consultants before an abortion can be performed, thus making women dependent on the benevolent interpretation of a rule which nullifies their autonomy. The Committee is also concerned that abortion remains criminalized in the State party, which leads women to seek illegal abortions, which are often unsafe.

The Committee appreciates measures taken by the State party to improve mental health services for young women, but notes with concern the prevailing high level of suicide among young women, particularly minority and migrant youth. The Committee acknowledges the State party’s comprehensive health coverage and recent successful health education campaigns, such as the campaign to promote cervical cancer screening and good practice guidelines on health services for lesbian women and transgendered persons, but remains concerned about the access to and quality of these health services. The Committee also remains concerned about inequalities in access to health care by minority women. In particular, the Committee is concerned about the high rates of teenage pregnancy among Māori women and the lack of access to effective age-appropriate education on sexual and reproductive health and rights. Furthermore, the Committee is concerned about reports that some health practitioners perceive HIV testing of pregnant women as mandatory and are testing women without their consent.

34. The Committee urges the State party:

(a) To review the abortion law and practice with a view to simplifying it and to ensure women’s autonomy to choose;

(b) To prevent women from having to resort to unsafe abortions and remove punitive provisions imposed on women who undergo an abortion;

(c) To take the necessary measures to address the deteriorating mental health situation of young girls, to prevent and combat the abuse of alcohol and use of drugs, and to prevent girls’ suicide, especially girls from migrant and minority communities;

(d) To increase efforts to improve health-care services, including mental health care, for minority women, especially Māori and Pacific women;

(e) To improve access and quality of health services for lesbian women and transgendered persons;

(f) To promote widely education on sexual and reproductive health rights, particularly with regard to the prevention of teenage and unwanted pregnancies, and to strengthen measures to support pregnant girls;

(g) To take steps to ensure that pregnant women are informed that HIV testing is not mandatory and ensure that, when they are tested, their informed consent is obtained.