More needs to be done, groups say

Declining abortion rates are being welcomed by various groups and organisations throughout New Zealand, but many say more must be done to address issues of concern.

The Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand (Alranz) hoped declining abortion rates were a sign of increased access to contraception and the ability of women to choose the timing, spacing and number of children.

But Alranz president Dr Morgan Healey said Statistics New Zealand data needed to be understood within a wider social context which "continues to stigmatise women for their sexual and reproductive choices".

The stigma and silence associated with abortion had to be broken, and policy amended to reflect a fair society, Dr Healey said.

"Alranz calls on the Government to use the opportunity of the annual release of abortion statistics to move toward a review of the existing laws," she said.

Right to Life New Zealand spokesman Ken Orr, of Christchurch, said the "huge decrease" in annual abortions was encouraging.

He suggested abortions were becoming less popular among New Zealand women, who had an increased awareness about associated risks, which he said included mental-health issues.

Mr Orr was concerned most abortions were authorised on the grounds of mental health after a brief examination and said women should be more thoroughly assessed before abortion was approved.

Family First New Zealand also welcomed the drop in abortions but issued a press release stating the number of teenagers choosing abortion was still a concern.

In the year to December 2011, there were 2890 voluntary, legal abortions performed on girls aged 11 to 19 years in New Zealand.

"An average of 55 teens have an abortion each week, 38% of women have had previous abortions ... and 17% of abortions are being performed in the 12th week or later, despite the research on fetal development," Family First national director Bob McCoskrie said.

Family First called for a law which required informed consent including ultrasound for all potential abortions and counselling to be provided only by non-providers of abortion services.

 

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