Catholics are being urged to help prevent the spread of a "culture of death" in opposition to a new abortion service at Southland Hospital.
In a letter to be read at church services on Sunday, Dunedin Catholic Bishop Colin Campbell said the pleas of many people had gone unheeded by Southern District Health Board management.
He said every human being had an inviolable right to life.
"The directly intended killing of any innocent human being is always wrong. Let us continue to pray and raise our voices in the private and public arena."
Pro-life group Southlanders for Life is laying a complaint with the Ombudsman, citing a lack of public consultation by the board.
The group said in a statement the board had tried to sneak in the controversial service.
"We're shocked that there has been no information or consultation whatsoever with the public on this important matter of considerable public interest. It's clear that the management has tried to sneak this new and controversial service into Southland with no communication with the general public and the general hospital staff."
Southland chief medical officer David Tulloch said in a statement the service, which was due to start last week, would ensure that women having terminations had adequate access to the procedure in their own area.
Abortions were provided by district health boards throughout New Zealand but Southland women had had to travel to Dunedin.
The number of procedures would depend on referral numbers from doctors.
"The board had a discussion around the process undertaken by management and clinicians to initiate termination of pregnancy services at Southland Hospital and determined it was collectively satisfied that the board followed the correct process."
Pro-choice campaigner Alison McCulloch told Radio New Zealand the Catholic church was missing the point and the board was required by law to provide the service.
"We have to remember this is not a new service as such and all this is doing is setting up a service closer to where the women live."