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Concern at Domestic Violence-Abortion Link

Abortion Law Reform Association of NZ

*Concern at Domestic Violence-Abortion Link*

The 2010 Abortion Supervisory Committee report, issued Wednesday, raises serious concerns about links between domestic violence and abortion in New Zealand, the president of the Abortion Law Reform Association, Dame Margaret Sparrow, said today.

This year’s report reveals that one third of women having an abortion at Auckland’s Epsom Day Unit had a history of domestic violence, a situation that is of great concern to ALRANZ, Dame Margaret said.

“We endorse the ASC’s call for more research into this extremely worrying statistic, as well as the committee’s suggestion that links between abortion rates and socio-economic deprivation be investigated,” Dame Margaret said.

“These questions are particularly acute considering the report also notes that many women are still having to travel long distances to access abortion services.”

ALRANZ continues to urge the ASC to support applications like that by Family Planning to provide early medical abortions (that is, abortions using the so-called abortion pill) as one step toward improving accessibility and easing the situation for women facing difficult personal circumstances.

“The ASC notes that medical abortions have risen slightly, to 6 percent from 5 percent the previous year, and says it has been encouraging abortion providers to offer that service,” Dame Margaret said. ALRANZ believes the ASC needs to do more. In Scotland, more than 60 percent of abortions are medical.

The overall abortion figures in the report are not new – these were released in June by Statistics New Zealand, and showed a slight drop in 2009 in both rate and overall numbers, to 17,550 – but the report includes other important information, including:

• The figures show more women are having abortions at an earlier stage in their pregnancies, with 30% taking place at 8 weeks or less in 2009, compared with 25% in 2008. (0.41% took place at over 20 weeks, essentially unchanged from 2008.) This is a positive trend.

• 98.2% of abortions were carried out on mental health grounds, essentially unchanged on the previous year. Alranz continues to argue that this statistic underscores the need for abortion to be decriminalized.

• 54% of women having abortions in 2009 were not using any contraception, also unchanged from the previous year. ALRANZ shares the ASC’s concern at this figure.

• ALRANZ, like the ASC, is encouraged that there are new applicants from prospective certifying consultants (two of whom must approve any abortion) located in smaller centres.

• ALRANZ urges the ASC to press the newly formed Southern District Health board to urgently provide services for Southland women.

• In light of a recent push by anti-abortion activists to impose mandatory parental notification for under-16s, ALRANZ urges the ASC to provide more detailed breakdowns by age of woman.

• There were 176 certifying consultants compared with 196 the previous year, whose fees totaled $4,848,579, compared with $4,998,870 the previous year.

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