Abortion Services in New Zealand


Abortion procedures

Surgical abortion

Surgical abortion by dilatation of the cervix and suction curettage is the most common method used in New Zealand for first trimester and some second trimester abortions.

Medical abortion

Medical abortion uses pills rather than surgery. An early medical abortion (up to nine weeks) is more like a natural miscarriage. A later medical abortion is more like inducing a labour. Medical abortion was introduced into New Zealand in 2001.

Availability of first trimester abortion services

All District Health Boards are required to provide legal abortion services for eligible women in their area. Some provide this by referring women to abortion services in other districts. Women are assisted with travel to access these services but may have to travel long distances. Areas where this happens are Rotorua, Whanganui, Palmerston North, South Canterbury and West Coast - see information given in Regional Services.

Early medical abortion is now available in most areas of New Zealand where first trimester surgical abortion services are provided except Northland, Hawkes Bay and Blenheim.

Bay of Plenty provides medical abortion in Tauranga but women have to travel for a surgical service.


Risks of abortion

Abortion is a relatively safe procedure, but all methods carry some risk. The risk is dependent on the stage of pregnancy at which the abortion is carried out as well as the procedure used.

The pre-existing health of the woman also impacts upon the risk. Therefore, it is important that women disclose full information about their past and present health when deciding on the procedure.


Pregnancy is divided into three parts, called trimesters;

  • The first trimester to conception to 12+ weeks
  • The second 13 to 27+ weeks
  • The third 28 to 40 weeks.

Last Updated: 13 August 2014