A woman left her general practice in tears after a doctor told her she was "immoral and risking hellfire" for seeking an abortion. Discreetly, the female receptionist rushed after the woman and slipped her a card for a doctor who could help her.

Another woman visited three different doctors for an abortion - and each time was shown the door.

These are the harrowing stories a New Zealand "pro-choice" advocacy group say they are hearing all the time and it's one of the reasons they are campaigning for the law change.

"Abortion is so stigmatised anyway, these woman are going out on a limb, they are going to the doctor because they expect them to help get the health care they need and have a right to and what they find is judgment, often a very offensive way," Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand (Alranz) president Terry Bellamak said.

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This comes as a bill that would remove abortion from the Crimes Act is expected to get its rubber stamp by the full Cabinet - as soon as next Monday, before it's debated in the House.

Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand (Alranz) president Terry Bellamak. Photo / File
Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand (Alranz) president Terry Bellamak. Photo / File

Today, a University of Otago analysis of the proposed abortion law change - published in the New Zealand Medical Journal - reveals that doctors will still be able to refuse referring patients to an abortion service.

"Proposals would not remove all grounds for 'conscientious objection' in relation to abortion.

"Health providers would retain their right to object to perform or participate, in the provision of abortion, " the authors said.

They said consequently, a practioner's duties in New Zealand was minimal.

"They only need to inform a woman of the option of seeking out another provider, but are not required to put her in touch with an alternative provider, facilitate her transfer or even provide a contact details."

For Alanz, the "pro-choice" advocacy group, this was "highly alarming".

Bellamak said it was not a place of a doctor to impose their morality on other people.

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"They knew what they were getting into before they became a doctor."

A bill that would remove abortion from the Crimes Act is expected to get its rubber stamp by the full Cabinet - as soon as next Monday. Photo / File
A bill that would remove abortion from the Crimes Act is expected to get its rubber stamp by the full Cabinet - as soon as next Monday. Photo / File

Dr Catherine Hallagan, a Wellington-based GP who is in the Health Professionals Alliance, a grouping of doctors who object to practices such as abortion on moral and religious grounds, told the Herald: "Most health professionals have a conscientious limit as to what they are prepared to do, regardless of what is lawful. Every doctor has the right not to be forced to act beyond this limit, particularly in life-or-death decisions.

"This right to freedom of conscience is especially important, as more and more ethically challenging scenarios arise such as referral for late-term abortions," Hallagan said.

New Zealand Medical Association chair Dr Kate Baddock echoed Hallagan's comments, saying conscientious objection as the right of a doctor not to undertake or participate in something they have a strong moral objection to is for the most part understood and accepted.

However, she said the issue of referral was less clear.

"The current law requires that the doctor must inform the woman that she can seek an abortion through another doctor - we support this.

"When the Government proposes law changes we will consult with our members to inform NZMA's position - until that time we don't know what the Bill is going to propose," Baddock said.

Justice Minister Andrew Little is lodging the abortion bill. Photo / File
Justice Minister Andrew Little is lodging the abortion bill. Photo / File

Justice minister Andrew Little, who is lodging the bill, said the Government was yet to make an announcement on its approach to this issue and any draft law.

"I won't make any further comment on any alternative law until a formal announcement is made."

The current law:

As abortion is part of New Zealand's Crimes Act, women are required to get approval from two doctors and prove it is in the interest of their "physical and mental health and wellbeing".

The options:

1.) Retain the current law

2.) Decision on abortion is for a woman alone, in consultation with health practitioner

3.) Doctor decides if abortion is appropriate, considering women's mental and physical wellbeing. That "test" would be set out in law. (closest to current).

4.) Woman decides alone unless she is more than 22 weeks pregnant. After that, doctor decides if abortion appropriate, considering mental and physical health.

* These are the Law Commission options, which could be changed by the Government.

The Process:

1.) Justice Minister Andrew Little puts up legislation.

2.) MPs get a conscience vote on it soon after. If it passes the first reading, it goes to select committee for public submissions and any changes. That will likely be a dedicated select committee.

3.) If sufficient support, passes by end of 2019.