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The functions and failings of the Abortion Supervisory Committee: A Critique of the New Zealand Supreme Court Decision in Right to Life New Zealand Inc v The Abortion Supervisory Committee

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posted on 2021-11-14, 02:03 authored by Smith, Emma Jane

In 2012 the Supreme Court of New Zealand ruled on Right to Life New Zealand Inc v The Abortion Supervisory Committee. The case was brought by way of application for judicial review, with Right to Life New Zealand Inc arguing that the Supervisory Committee had made an error of law in interpreting its functions under the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977. A majority of the Court held that the Supervisory Committee does not have the power to review decisions made by certifying consultants in individual cases. However, both the text and the purpose of the Act support the minority view, that the Supervisory Committee must seek information about individual cases in order to fulfil its functions under the Act. It appears that the majority judgment was motivated by policy concerns due to an arguable change in Parliamentary intent since 1977. The majority should have acknowledged the policy values that guided its decision or accorded with the minority view rather than straining the statutory wording. Either of those actions would have better prompted Parliament to reform the law to reflect modern circumstances.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Name

LL.B. (Honours)

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970118 Expanding Knowledge in Law and Legal Studies

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Research Paper or Project



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Law