The Abortion Supervisory Committee’s 33rd annual report to Parliament for the year ending 30 June 2010 has been published. In 2009 the Abortion Supervisory Committee (ASC) changed the format of these reports and further statistics are available on the Statistics NZ website – www.stats.govt.nz
In 2009 the ASC launched a standardised referral system for use by primary care providers when consulted by women seeking a termination of pregnancy and in 2010 they spent time encouraging uptake of the system around the country. The Committee also focused on the need for appropriate continuing medical education for counsellors working the area of pregnancy loss including abortion.
The report notes that the Committee continues “to be concerned about accessibility of services for women and believe it is unacceptable that women in some parts of the country have to travel long distances in order to access abortion services.”
The total of induced abortions performed in 2009 was 17,550 compared with 17,940 in 2008 and 18,382 in 2007, a significant decline given the increasing population.
There has been a slight rise in the number of medical abortions in 2009 with the rate rising to 6.2% (1091) compared to 5% in 2008.
Women aged between 20-24 years accounted for 5332 of the abortions performed, with women aged 15-19 years accounting for 3873 abortions, and women aged between 25-29 years accounting for 3539 abortions. For the youngest age group in this table – young women/girls under 15 – there were 79 who had an abortion. These figures are similar to those from the previous year.
A total of 9,517 women (54.2%) were not using any form of contraception, 4,867 (27.7%) were using condoms, 1,954 (11.1%) were using combined oral contraceptives, and 358 (2%) were using progesterone only contraceptives. A total of 220 women (1.3%) had used emergency contraception, 276 were using natural family planning (1.6%), 203 (1.2%) were using an intra-uterine device, and 114 (0.6%) were using depo provera injections.
The ASC notes that there has been no improvement in the proportion of women having an abortion who were not using any contraception at the time of conception and that contraceptive health education is obviously not being effective. The Committee wants to see the Ministry of Health to foster research into this important issue.
The ethnicity graphs revealed that there were 10,113 abortions for European women, 4,131 abortions for Maori women, 2,892 for Asian women, 2,360 abortions for Pacific women, and 216 for Middle Eastern, Latin American and African women.
Lack of access
A graph on first trimester abortions by duration of pregnancy and residence of women reveals that women in Northland, Bay of Plenty, Hawkes Bay and Southland were least likely to be able to access a first-trimester abortion prior to 10 – 11 weeks.
The report notes that peer-reviewed, funded research into abortion in New Zealand appears to be increasing, and that there are many issues that need to be explored, for example information from Epsom Day Unit revealed that one third of women accessing abortion have a history of domestic violence.
The report reveals that the fees paid to the 176 certifying consultants totalled $4,848,579 (ext GST) in the year ended 30 June 2010.
High Court Proceedings
This year’s report makes no mention of the ongoing court battle instigated by the Right to Life group in 2005. The latest Appeal Court hearing took place in Wellington before Justices Chambers, Arnold and Stevens on 5–6 October 2010, after having been postponed from May 2010 which is probably why the report makes no mention of it. The judges’ decision has yet to be released.
Further information on the history of the legal proceedings is available at: www.alranz.org/RTLvASCcourtcase.htm