17 Jun 2009

Abortion figures reveal continued downward trend

7:47 am on 17 June 2009

The number of abortions carried out continues to decline from a peak in 2003.

Figures from Statistics New Zealand show there were just over 17,900 abortions in 2008 - 400 fewer that the previous year.

The number of abortions reached a high in 2003 when just over 18,500 were performed. The figures fell in the following two years, but rose again in 2006 and 2007.

A key figure in the Abortion Law Reform Association, Margaret Sparrow, says the latest figures show abortion numbers are levelling off.

Dr Sparrow says this may be due to better access to sex education and contraception.

The group Right to Life says it is concerned that up to 98% of abortions are approved due to a perceived danger to the woman's mental health - which it does not believe is the case.

The head clinician of Wellington's Te Mahoe abortion clinic says a fall in the number of abortions in 2008 coincides with a rise in the birthrate.

Carol Shand says the downward trend in the numbers seeking abortions has been clear to clinicians at the clinic. She says the reasons are uncertain, but the fall comes as women are having more children.

Dr Shand says improved access to contraception may have also played a role.