WELLINGTON, Aug. 5 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand's abortion law will be modernized so it is "treated as a health issue rather than a crime," Justice Minister Andrew Little said on Monday.
A bill, which will have its first reading on Thursday will remove any statutory test on the health practitioner for a woman who is not more than 20 weeks pregnant, Little said in a statement.
"Abortion is the only medical procedure that is still a crime in New Zealand. It's time for this to change," said Little.
For a woman who is more than 20 weeks pregnant, the bill requires the health practitioner to reasonably believe the abortion is appropriate with regard to the pregnant woman's physical and mental health, and well-being.
The bill also ensures that health practitioners advise women of the availability of counselling services if they are considering an abortion or have had an abortion, although counselling will not be mandatory.
It ensures that practitioners who object to providing services on the grounds of conscience must inform the pregnant women about their objection, and that the woman can obtain the services elsewhere.
It also asks to retain the criminal offence for unqualified people who attempt to procure an abortion on a pregnant woman or supply the means for procuring an abortion, and the criminal offence of killing an unborn child for any person who causes harm to a pregnant woman and in doing so causes the death of a fetus.
"This bill will modernize the laws on abortion, by removing it from the Crimes Act and bringing the law into line with many other developed countries," Little said, adding safe abortion should be treated and regulated as a health issue; a woman has the right to choose what happens to her body.
The bill will have its first reading on Thursday and will be treated as a conscience issue, meaning Members of Parliament can cast their votes independently at each stage of the bill's progression through the House.