Abortion upturn in South 'anomaly'

An increase in the number of abortions performed in the Southern district during 2011-12 is an anomaly created by the merger of Otago and Southland's district health boards, Abortion Supervisory Committee chairwoman Dame Linda Holloway says.

The committee's 2013 report showed 14,475 abortions were performed throughout New Zealand in 2012 - the lowest number since 1995.

The number of abortions performed in Dunedin Hospital during 2012 was 740, down from 778 in 2011 but well up on the 576 in 2010. About 100 abortions were performed at Southland Hospital's new clinic in 2012.

About 5% of all abortions in New Zealand were performed at Dunedin Hospital in the two-year period compared with about 3.5% for the nine previous years. Dame Linda said she believed the increase was due to the Otago and Southland health board merger in 2010.

The number of women from the Southern district who had abortions since the merger had remained similar and the increase in the number of abortions at Dunedin Hospital showed women in the region had more access to local services and was ''positive'' for women in the region, Dame Linda said.

''If they have access to local services they are able to be supported locally and have a much more considered approach to decision-making,'' she said.

''Access to local services helps to reduce the abortion rate.''

The numbers were ''falling, falling, falling'' in New Zealand and Dame Linda said she expected the numbers at Dunedin Hospital to mirror national trends in coming years.

Abortion Law Reform Association Southern district spokeswoman Kerri Perwick said she was pleased to see women in the region had increased access to local services.

''Local service is more convenient when taking time from work and family, but we hope that access to affordable contraception is widening, too,'' she said.

The report said harassment of clinic staff and patients remained ''a significant concern to the committee'' and Mrs Perwick believed ''more action on this issue is needed''.

Dunedin John Paul II Centre for Life co-ordinator Frank Fischer said the increase in abortions performed in the Southern district was ''concerning''.

''The lowering of the abortion rate is a trend that's happening nationally and it would be nice if our number of surgical abortions was trending down with the rest of country; it hasn't in the last report,'' Mr Fischer said.

He believed there needed to be more funding for support services for women who had ''unexpected pregnancies''.

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