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New Zealand high court dismisses appeal in Abortion Supervisory Committee case

The Supreme Court of New Zealand [official website] on Thursday rejected an appeal [decision, PDF] brought by anti-abortion group Right to Life [advocacy website]. The court upheld a Court of Appeal decision regarding the capacity of the Abortion Supervisory Committee [official website], the statutory body which oversees the country's abortion law and providers. The appeals court had ruled that the Committee does not have the authority to review or scrutinize the decisions of certifying consultants on abortion and form its own view about the lawfulness of their decisions to the extent necessary to perform its functions. On the other hand the court held that the Committee can seek information from certifying consultants about how they have generally approached their caseload. The court also stressed that the committee would have, under the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977 [text] the power of "keeping under review the operation of the provisions of the abortion law ... and of ensuring consistency of the administration of that law throughout New Zealand" and making inquiries into such from time to time, except on the basis of individual cases. In its ruling the court also concluded that it is now the responsibility of the Committee itself and perhaps also of the parliament to review whether the Act is operating as it should.

Abortion has been a controversial issue around the world. Earlier this month a Kansas judge refused to dismiss [JURIST report] a lawsuit challenging the state's new abortion clinic regulations after state officials asked that they be upheld without a trial. The law [SB36 materials] requires abortion providers to obtain an annual license and sets minimum requirements for staff members and buildings in which abortions are performed. In July the US District Court for the District of Kansas [official website] had issued [JURIST report] a preliminary injunction to block SB36. Also in July the US District Court for the District of Arizona [official website] declined to block [JURIST report] enforcement of a new Arizona abortion regulation [HB 2036 materials; JURIST report] that will ban abortions after 20 weeks unless there is a medical emergency. In May Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [official website, in Turkish] called [JURIST report] for stricter regulations on abortions and Caesarean births in Turkey. In September voters in Liechtenstein rejected [JURIST report] a proposal to legalize abortion.

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