A Chinese student has been jailed for 20 months for importing and selling illegal abortion pills to fellow students.

Jinfeng Zhu, of Auckland, had her parents send the pills from China and she sold them for a profit through Chinese-language website skykiwi.com.

The 24-year-old made $28,000 from the sale of the 44 pills, and she admitted also selling condoms and the contraceptive pill.

The Auckland District Court was told that, when police raided Zhu's apartment, they found hundreds of pills, and packets of the morning-after pill that were illegally imported to New Zealand from China.

There were also 100 pregnancy test kits.

The case is the first of its kind to come before New Zealand courts and Judge Josephine Bouchier said, with no case law, she had to assess the significant aggravating and mitigating factors for herself.

She said none of the pills had been approved for sale in New Zealand.

"They were given to young women who certainly sought them and bought them but for whom there were no safeguards."

Judge Bouchier said denunciation and deterrence warranted a prison sentence.

Zhu was sentenced to 20 months on supplying the means to procure an abortion.

She was also given concurrent sentences of three months each for three charges of supplying a new medicine without consent, supplying prescription medicine by retail and one charge of advertising the availability of a new medicine.

Jack Cheng, acting for Zhu, said his client sympathised with the position of some young Chinese girls who found themselves pregnant, alone, with no family, few friends and little support.

Instead of prison he pleaded that Zhu be made to pay a large fine to the Ministry of Health to disseminate information to the Chinese community, which viewed premarital sex and pregnancy as shameful.

Students often "tried to take things into their own hands", he said.

But Ministry of Health lawyer Michael Thomas said the operation was premeditated, ongoing and conducted for monetary gain with potentially dangerous side-effects.

Zhu had been sent a letter from Medsafe, warning her about the unlawful importation of the pills, when they were initially discovered in packages as part of border surveillance by Customs.

A courier package then arrived in New Zealand and Zhu's apartment was searched.

After the sentencing, Derek Fitzgerald, Medsafe team leader of compliance, said he was pleased with the outcome.

"This is an important case because of the serious side-effects of the medicines involved, especially the abortion-inducing medicines.

"These medicines require proper medical diagnosis," he said.