By: Isaac Davison
New Zealand women are having abortions earlier in their pregnancy – a trend which has been welcomed by Family Planning.
In 2017, 59 per cent of abortions in New Zealand took place before the 10th week of pregnancy, slightly up from last year and 16 per cent up on a decade ago.
Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond said it was a positive trend because it meant women seeking a procedure were being seen earlier and were able to access medical services more quickly.
“Compared to some other countries, our women have been having abortions a lot later. So that is good to see.”
It was probably the result of greater availability of medical abortions in this country, she said.
The number of abortions in New Zealand rose slightly to 13.7 per 1000 women in 2017, up from 13.5 per cent the previous year. It was the first increase since 2007.
“We have come down very consistently over the past decade, so we were always due to settle at some point,” Edmond said.
“There will be always be unplanned pregnancies resulting in abortions, so maybe we’ve reached that settling place.”
The rate of teen abortions fell slightly from 9.4 per cent to 9.2 per cent – around 550 in total.
Of those under 16 years of age who had abortions, 32 per cent did not notify their parents.
Conservative lobby group Family First national director Bob McCoskrie – whose organisation wants notification to be compulsory – said that figure was higher than officials’ previous estimates, which ranged between 10 and 25 per cent.
Edmond said there was nothing sinister about young people not telling their parents about the procedure.
Family Planning encouraged pregnant teenagers to talk to their parents or a trusted adult, but sometimes that was not always possible or practical.
“Other places in health people really acknowledge the evolving capacity of young people and the need for them to have a say in their healthcare, and that’s the same in abortion,” Edmond said.
The latest figures were released as the Law Commission investigates the options for reforming adoption laws in New Zealand.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern campaigned on removing abortion from the Crimes Act, and wants it to be treated primarily as a health issue.
Abortions are only permitted in New Zealand when the prospective mother faces serious physical or mental harm by having the baby and require sign-off from two certifying consultants.
Pro-life groups like Family First say liberalisation of abortion laws will reverse the trend of falling abortion rates in New Zealand.
But that claim does not appear to be backed by evidence. A recent international studyshowed that countries with the most liberal abortion laws had the lowest abortion rates.
• 13,285 abortions in year to June 2017, or 13.7 per 1000 women
• Women aged 20-24 had highest abortion rate (21 per 1000 women)
• Most abortions (64%) were the woman’s first
• 59% of abortions performed before 10th week of pregnancy
Source: NZ Herald
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