New Zealand Parliament advances legislation decriminalizing abortion

New Zealand Parliament advances legislation decriminalizing abortion
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New Zealand's parliament on Thursday advanced a proposal to decriminalize abortion. 

The legislation, which would be the country's first abortion law change in more than 40 years, passed its first reading 94-23, ABC News reported.

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Justice Minister Andrew Little announced the proposed change Monday, saying in a statement “abortion is the only medical procedure that is still a crime in New Zealand. It’s time for this to change.”

He said in the statement that it would remove the law from the Crimes Act and bring the country's law "into line with many other developed countries.” 

The statement said the legislation would remove statutory tests for health practitioners and for women who are not more than 20 weeks pregnant, which, per ABC, means that women who are less than 20 weeks pregnant would not need approval to have an abortion. 

Current laws say that abortion is only permitted if two doctors agree that the pregnancy presents a risk to the mother's life or health or the incest cases a "mental sub normality," or fetal abnormality.

“Safe abortion should be treated and regulated as a health issue," Little said in the statement. "A woman has the right to choose what happens to her body.”

Family Planning, a New Zealand reproductive health organization, said in a statement Monday that the proposed law was a "good news/bad news story."

"The good news is that the Government has committed to reforming abortion law, the bad news is the missed chance to make New Zealand a country with a legal framework based on human rights and best clinical practice," the statement said.