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Abortion denied at 18 weeks

Monday 16th October 2017

A woman considered driving off the road when she discovered she was four months pregnant.

 

A 22-year-old woman has been denied an abortion by North Shore Hospital, in the second known case this year of a woman being unable to access the procedure through the Waitematā DHB.  

Last night, the Herald reported the woman had been smoking cannabis daily and was “binge drinking every weekend” before she learnt she was 18 weeks pregnant. She earned minimum wage and was no longer with her 20-year-old boyfriend. 

The woman told the Herald she considered driving her car off the road.

The Herald reported that the woman was told by two different agencies - Family Planning and North Shore Hospital, that she would be unable to get a termination, and would have to go to Australia for the procedure. 

New Zealand law states that an abortion can be performed up to 20 weeks under specific circumstances when approved by two licensed doctors who are called “certifying consultants”. 

But the Herald reported the woman was not granted an appointment with a certifying consultant to determine her case.

According to the Abortion Supervisory Committee, which oversees the administration of terminations in New Zealand, a woman must have her case considered by two certifying consultants.

If an abortion is deemed justified, but the district health board does not do procedures up to particular gestations, they have a duty of care to refer the woman to a hospital that can provide the procedure.

Last month a 28-year-old administrator was 18-weeks and five days pregnant when she was denied a termination through Waitematā District Health Board’s North Shore Hospital.

Instead of being referred to the Auckland District Health Board, which has the capacity to provide late term abortions, she was told she would have to seek a termination in Australia - a procedure that would cost her more than $9000.

The woman found the ordeal so traumatising, she considered self harm or suicide.

READ MORE No Choice: When a legal abortion is denied

At the time, the Waitematā DHB’s policy stated that surgical terminations would not be agreed to from 18 to 20 weeks gestation.

The policy stated that women wanting a termination at this gestation must be advised that they can have a surgical termination in Australia at their own cost.

"If however there are serious mental health risks or physical abnormalities identified for the in-utero baby then a referral should be made to [certifying consultants' names redacted] for discussion. They can consider offering a medical termination at North Shore Hospital," the policy reads.

Neither of the women say they were offered this option, or asked directly about their mental health.

Waitemata DHB policy

Source: Waitematā DHB

A spokesman for the Waitematā DHB today told The Wireless that the policy was “consistent with the law which allows women to seek a termination of pregnancy at up to 20 weeks’ gestation. 

“The law does not require DHBs to provide terminations to every woman who requests one before 20 weeks; this is a matter for clinical consideration taking into account clinical risks and legal criteria.” 

The DHB did not answer questions regarding whether staff tell women who are pregnant beyond 18 weeks that they would be unable to access abortions elsewhere in New Zealand, whether DHB staff who are not certifying consultants determine, alongside the woman’s GP, whether or not the woman can see a certifying consultant, or if the DHB has updated its policy relating to its procedures around abortions this year. 
 
Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.
Lifeline: 0800 543 354
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.
Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)
Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz
What's Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children's helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)
Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)
Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254
Healthline: 0800 611 116
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.



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Susan Strongman is an Auckland-based journalist at The Wireless. She is interested in social issues, human rights and people, but likes to spend her spare time with her cats.
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