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MPs reject abortion law tweak

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 7/07/2016 By Sarah Robson

MPs have rejected a call to make it mandatory for parents to be told if their teenage daughter is seeking an abortion.

Taranaki mother Hillary Kieft took a petition to parliament asking for a law change so parents have the right to know if their daughter, if she's under the age of 16, is pregnant before she is referred for an abortion.

But the majority of MPs on parliament's justice and electoral committee have backed keeping the law as it is, saying compulsory parental notification could result in some young women being forced into making a decision that's against their own wishes.

"Ideally, and in most cases, a child will tell her parents so they can support her through the process," the committee said in its report.

"However, if a child has the capacity to consent to an abortion but does not wish to tell her parents she is pregnant, this wish should be respected."

The Abortion Law Reform Association said the committee made the right decision.

"Any young person having an abortion should ideally have the full support of their parents, but in some cases that can put them at risk," said association president Terry Bellamak.

"Mandatory reporting would increase the fear and stress on young people who are already in a vulnerable position."

The committee heard that only about 60 abortion procedures a year are performed on young women under the age of 16, and of those, fewer than 10 decide not to tell their parent or caregiver.

However, the committee has recommended there be greater oversight and monitoring of the post-procedure care - like counselling - that is offered to, and taken up by, young women.

"We are concerned that there does not seem to be specific responsibility to ensure the delivery of post-procedure care of young people who undergo abortions," the report said.

"We note that part of the problem comes from a young person refusing counselling, as is their right, but we would like to see proactive follow-up care for those identified as being at risk, particularly those without the support of their family or a trusted adult."

NZ First and the Maori Party disagreed with the conclusions of the majority of the select committee.

Ms Kieft's petition, which had seven signatures, was presented to parliament by National MP Chester Borrows.

Last year, 32 young women between the ages of 11 and 14 had abortions. In the 15 to 19 age group, that number was 1635.

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