3 Jun 2015

Free phone line aims to reduce abortion delays

1:28 pm on 3 June 2015

A free phone line has been set up for women seeking abortions, to reduce delays.

The standard process for a woman seeking an abortion involves a GP or family planning doctor referring them to an abortion clinic.

The woman is then assessed by two consultants who have to agree to proceed with the abortion.

But Wairarapa abortion services doctor Simon Snook said there were often significant delays between a woman approaching a doctor and referral.

"The average delay is around just under 28 days, and we're very well aware from a lot of research that the longer you postpone having an abortion, the greater is the risk both physically and emotionally."

There are various reasons for these delays, which include getting an appointment, concerns about confidentiality and slow referrals, he said.

But he insisted the service was not bypassing the proper process and there was no intent to rush a person into having an abortion.

"When a woman has made a decision to seek abortion care there are still a number of checks and balances put in the way, including the requirement to offer counselling and to be serviced, as per the abortion law, in a clinic."

The grounds for an abortion under 20 weeks include the potential for pregnancy to put a woman's life in danger, or cause physical or mental harm. Fetal abnormality or a pregnancy as a result of incest are also reasons for an abortion.

Age and sexual violation can also be taken into account.

Beyond 20 weeks, the grounds for abortion include saving woman's life or preventing permanent physical or mental injury.

Data from Statistics New Zealand shows 14,073 abortions were performed in 2013, which is the lowest number since 1995.

Women between 20 and 24 years had the highest abortion rate and 56 percent of abortions were performed before the tenth week of the pregnancy.

The free phone line is 0800 ABORTION.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs