Abortions rise after law change

The number of people in the South having abortions has increased, following significant changes to legislation last year.

The Ministry of Health yesterday released its annual report on abortion services in New Zealand.

It captured the first period since major abortion law reform came into effect in March 2020.

The reforms decriminalised abortion, allowed self-referral to abortion services, and created provisions for abortions to occur in a range of settings, including primary care.

The report shows a 12% increase in the number of abortions performed for people living in the Southern District Health Board area between 2019 and 2020, from 847 to 956.

That was largely driven by an increase in abortions at The Women’s Clinic in Invercargill, where there were 400 abortions in 2020 compared  with 235 the year before.

A total of 13,246 abortions were performed nationally last year, a 3% rise from 12,857 in 2019.

But the overall rate has fallen in the past decade, from 16,630 in 2010.

The ministry report noted it was positive that access to abortion services had not decreased due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The mean age of those having an abortion last year was 28, and 40% of all abortions were for those aged over 30.

Two facilities started providing abortions for the first time in 2020— Timaru Hospital and the Family Planning Clinic in Whangarei.

Last year 45% of abortions were accessed before eight weeks’ gestation, up from 27% in 2019.

In a statement The Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand president Terry Bellamak said early abortions were better for people because they did not have to remain pregnant for as long, and the earlier the abortion, the safer it was.

‘‘Reducing delay was a key benefit of removing abortion from the Crimes Act and treating it like all other healthcare.

‘‘Actual reduction in delay, as expected, shows the new abortion system is working much better than the old one.”