A petition seeking a law change that would require parents to be informed before their daughter has an abortion is unnecessary and potentially dangerous, says an abortion rights advocate.

Abortion Law Reform New Zealand spokeswoman Annabel Henderson Morell said most teenagers already told their families when they needed an abortion, and those who did not did so for their own wellbeing.

"Almost always it's because they know that would lead to a situation of coercion where they would be forced to carry through with a pregnancy they don't want to have," she said.

"There's also horrible instances of family violence, incest or sexual abuse."


Ms Henderson Morell said if the law changed, it would further stigmatise pregnant teenagers and could in some cases see young women kicked out of home.

"There's a huge amount of stigma attached, with abortion but also with teenagers who have sex, teen mothers.

"Society has a pretty shaming attitude towards all of those aspects."

Teenagers under 16 were in a minority of those seeking abortion in New Zealand, Ms Henderson Morell said.

"There's so many other issues around this topic that would be better addressed."
The petition for a law change was launched by Taranaki mother Hillary Kieft, who said she had gone through an experience "no other parent" should have.

Her teenage daughter was taken to another town for an abortion without her knowledge several years ago.

"One day in September 2009, our 15 year-old daughter did not come home from school on the bus. The health nurse had taken her to another town for an abortion," she wrote.

"Society, the law and government agencies expect parents to take responsibilities for the behaviours of their children.


"We do this across government agencies such as health, education, welfare, and justice, yet when it comes to abortion, parents can be locked out of the process and still be left to clean up the mess left behind."

Bob McCoskrie, director of conservative lobby group Family First NZ, said he would support a law change.

"While a parent has to sign a letter for their daughter to go on a school trip to the zoo or to play in the netball team, they are totally excluded from any knowledge or granting of permission for that same child to have a surgical abortion.

"It begs the question - what is so unique about abortion procedures which allows for the prohibition of parental consent?"
Mr McCoskrie said younger teenagers were less able to make the decision to have an abortion on their own.

"A recent research paper argued that most female adolescents only start to acquire sufficient autonomous capacity from the age of 14 years and as such the legislative wording of the current law is problematic and arguably careless."

Meanwhile, anti-abortion group Right to Life has weighed in on the availability of a free phone service for women who need abortion consultation.

The New Zealand Herald yesterday revealed the 0800 ABORTION service had been set up by Wairarapa abortion doctor Simon Snook in response to delays, said to be potentially harmful, faced by many New Zealand women seeking to end a pregnancy.

The service offers to arrange counselling and organises the necessary medical tests and appointment with an abortion clinic. Patients leave a message and receive three calls back from, in succession, a nurse and two doctors within 24 hours.

The first medical call is from a referring doctor instead of the patient having to find a GP or Family Planning practitioner. The second is from a certifying consultant who assesses if the patient meets the criteria for a lawful abortion, such as serious danger to her mental health if the pregnancy continues.

Right to Life has said the service was "to have the killing of their child authorised over the phone".

"How can a doctor with a modicum of conscience sign a certificate authorising the killing of an innocent and defenceless child on the basis of a brief telephone conversation," spokesman Ken Orr said.

Right to Life called the service demeaning and said it was an insult to the dignity of women.

The group also took Tauranga Family Planning to court on Tuesday over the legality of the medical abortion services provided.

The branch is the only Family Planing premises to be granted a licence by the Abortion Supervisory Board.

Right to Life argued in the High Court at Wellington today that the Family Planning centre in Tauranga was unlawful because it only performed medical abortions.

Clinics must offer both surgical and medical abortions in order to be legal, the anti-abortion group said.

Family Planning boss Jackie Edmond said if teenage girls were scared to tell their parents they needed an abortion, a law requiring their parents to know could result in them using unsafe methods to acquire one.

"They may not come to a service and hide the pregnancy,' she said.

"Or they may do something drastic to themselves to terminate a pregnancy, or they may order pills online, they may resort to those sorts of things."

"It pushes them into a situation when they could [choose] those unsafe options."

Ms Edmond said the process was not as simple as a school nurse whisking a young woman away to have an abortion.

"They're very well counselled and supported by a number of people throughout a process of having an abortion.

"The way it's being shown is a school counsellor puts them in a car and takes them to an abortion clinic, [but] it's a very significant process getting access to have an abortion."