Despite its progressive reputation, New Zealand had until now maintained abortion as an offense under the 1961 Crimes Act, with jail terms of up to 14 years for those who procured a termination.

New Zealand Justice Minister Andrew Little speaks to lawmakers in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, March 18, 2020.
New Zealand Justice Minister Andrew Little speaks to lawmakers in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. (Nick Perry / AP)

New Zealand's Parliament voted on Wednesday to decriminalise abortion, in a move Justice Minister Andrew Little said modernised legislation and gave women control over their bodies.

Despite its progressive reputation, New Zealand had until now maintained abortion as an offense under the 1961 Crimes Act, with jail terms of up to 14 years for those who procured a termination.

While the law was never enforced and women who underwent abortions were not liable for prosecution, Little said the change was needed.

"From now abortions will be rightly treated as a health issue," he said in a statement.

"The previous law required a woman seeking an abortion to go through many hoops. The changes agreed to by parliament will better ensure women get advice and treatment in a more timely way."

The reform passed through parliament by a vote of 68 to 51.

Source: AFP