March 25, 2019
Issue 03 2019

Your right to a legal and safe abortion in New Zealand

Step 1. Oh Shit. You missed a pill, or they said they’d pull out but didn’t. You find yourself pregnant and don’t know what to do.

We had gone official in October and were ready to take the next step; long term contraception. I had booked in to get the IUD at Evolve and my partner was there to support me. However, before you get the IUD the doctor does a routine pregnancy test.

“And your pregnancy test is  . . . interesting . . . hmmm. We’d better send you for some bloodwork to confirm that.”

You need to be at least four weeks pregnant for your HCG levels to show up on a home pregnancy test.

Step 2. Confirming your pregnancy with your doctor or family planning clinic.

Long wait times for GP appointments can limit your time window of getting a medical (pill) abortion. Medical abortions can only be administered before nine weeks gestation.

Step 3. Doctor’s consultation

You now need to convince your doctor that carrying the pregnancy to term would negatively affect your mental health.

In November 2013, when I found myself pregnant at age 20, my first instinct was that I didn’t want to have the baby. I couldn’t - I had just recovered from a severe mental health breakdown the previous year, and my life was finally getting back on track. It didn’t take much convincing my GP that continuing pregnancy wouldn’t be the best for me.

If your GP is ethically or religiously opposed to abortion, they can choose not to refer you.

Step 4. Ultrasound

Before referring you to hospital, you will need to accurately date the pregnancy via an ultrasound.

This can be distressing for women, but you can ask your ultrasound technician to not show the screen and just forward the results to your doctor.

Because my HCG was low, my doctor wasn’t sure whether the pregnancy would be viable, so I had to get an internal ultrasound. And yes that is exactly like it sounds. An ultrasound wand up there. Whatever the outcome, I still had to look at that 8-week dot.

Step 5. Pre-decision counselling

Before you have your first appointment at the clinic you can choose to go for pre-decision counselling. Te Mahoe Clinic in Wellington insists that you attend one session before Appointment One. Sometimes it’s really helpful to get an outside perspective - they make sure you aren’t being coerced either way and have full autonomy in your decision.

At pre-decision counselling I was still all over the place. The weight of this decision, plus hormones and morning sickness (which lasts all day) meant I was absolutely wrecked. I was hiding it from my co-workers, who thought I was just hungover all the time. My counsellor was very helpful, we made a pros and cons list for Abortion, Adoption and Having the Baby.

Step 6. Appointment One

Your first appointment is with a nurse at the clinic. You will be asked all sorts of probing questions about your personal life, your mental state, your housing and living situation.

The Crimes Act classifies abortion as illegal however it has exception 187A that states: “continuing the pregnancy poses a major risk to a woman’s mental wellbeing.

You have to convince the nurse that continuing this pregnancy is detrimental to your mental health and wellbeing - 98% of abortions in New Zealand are granted on this premise.

Unless you are going private (which can cost up to $1100) your Appointment One and Appointment Two won’t be on the same day.

After you speak with the nurse, you will wait to be seen by another certifying consultant. This is a doctor who will go over the notes from the nurse, as well as asking about plans for future contraception.

Once the doctor signs off, you are given a date for Appointment Two, when the termination will take place. This can be anywhere from two to seven working days, depending on how busy the clinic is.

The average wait for women from discovering pregnancy to the date of abortion is twenty five days.

At about 8 weeks, on a bus ride, we decided to have the baby.

“So I guess $300 rent split, we could do it? Should we do it?”

“Yeah alright.”

Just two real dumbass 20-year-olds deciding to have a real life baby - super chill, casual as. This is where my journey ends, but for other women it continues.

Step 7. Appointment Two

Have transport pre-arranged and a support person ready. You can’t drive yourself home after the procedure, and it helps to have some moral or physical support. If possible arrange time off of work and uni in days afterward. Be kind to yourself.

Step 8. What kind of abortion?

A medical abortion is administered orally, but can only be performed before nine weeks or sixty three days gestation.

Surgical termination is usually performed under conscious sedation, meaning you are awake for the procedure, but have pain relief. If you have extreme anxiety about the operation you need to ask in advance to be sedated.

When going through the public system you will be in a clinic with other women all having their Appointment Two’s as well. We’re all in this together so we might as well make the best of the situation.

Step 9.  After

Following the procedure, there is a wait time of thirty to forty minutes before you can be discharged. During this time you can book a post-decision counselling session if you think it would be beneficial.

Step 10. What now?

You have exercised your right to bodily autonomy in a system that wants to strip you of it. There is still a long road ahead.

Things you can do to help:

● Join ALRANZ - Abortion Law Reform Association New Zealand

● Write to your local MP, asking them to review the current legislation around abortion, specifically taking it out of the Crimes Act.

● Join 40 Days for Choice NZ, a group of counter protesters who protest the Christians “Praying to End Abortion” during Lent (coming soon!)

When we criminalize abortions we don’t stop abortions, we just stop legal abortions.