Saturday, December 9, 2023

Health Ministry maps out abortion provider Safe Areas

New Zealand’s first Safe Areas around abortion service providers will be in place from 25 August to protect the safety, wellbeing, privacy and dignity of people who are accessing or providing abortion services.

Safe Areas cover up to 150 metres around a premises where abortion services are provided and prohibit certain behaviours that could be considered distressing to a person accessing or providing abortion services.

The law allowing for the creation of Safe Areas – the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion (Safe Areas) Amendment Act (2022) – was passed in March 2022.

The first six Safe Areas have been approved by Cabinet and published in the New Zealand Gazette.

The six Safe Areas, which will be enforced from 25 August 2023, are:

  • Auckland Medical Aid Centre (AMAC)
  • Epsom Day Unit, Greenlane Clinical Centre
  • Te Mahoe Unit, Wellington Regional Hospital
  • Te Nīkau, Grey Hospital and Health Centre, Greymouth Hospital
  • Gynaecology Procedure Unit (GPU) and Christchurch Women’s Hospital, Christchurch Hospital
  • Dunedin Hospital

Safe Areas are determined on a case-by-case basis and abortion services providers have to apply to have one created at their premises, the Ministry of Health said today.

Safe Area regulations can only be created by the Governor-General, by Order in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Health, in consultation with the Minister of Justice. This process may take up to nine months.

Applications from the second round are currently going through the government processes.

The third round of applications will open on 7 August.

The behaviours prohibited in a Safe Area are outlined in section 13A(1) of the Act. Examples of prohibited behaviour include:

  • blocking entrances to premises or preventing people from entering or leaving;
  • photographing or videoing someone in a manner that is likely to cause emotional distress to someone accessing or providing abortion-related services;
  • approaching a person to provide information about abortion services (unless part of the provision of services);
  • approaching a person to attempt to dissuade them from accessing these services;
  • providing anti-abortion pamphlets or similar materials;
  • engaging in protest about matters relating to the provision of abortion services. 

New Zealand Police are primarily responsible for the enforcement of Safe Areas. A person convicted of engaging in prohibited behaviour within a Safe Area may be liable for a fine of up to $1,000.

Maps showing each Safe Area are available at Safe Areas.

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