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New ASC Report Shows Abortion Access Problems


9 December 2009        Abortion Law Reform Association of NZ

New ASC Report Shows Abortion Access Problems

The 2009 Abortion Supervisory Committee report, issued Monday, shows New Zealand women are having later abortions because of problems accessing services, the president of the Abortion Law Reform Association, Dame Margaret Sparrow, said today.

The ASC itself says in the report (see bullet points below for the report’s highlights) it was “concerned that many women are not able to access abortion before 9 weeks gestation,” and Alranz echoes that concern.

“Figures also show wide regional variations with women in Northland, for example, having abortions much later than those in Wellington,” Dame Margaret said. “This is not acceptable.”

One reason, she suggested, was the poor uptake of medical abortion using the abortion pill, a point the ASC also makes.

“The proposal by Family Planning to widen access to early medical abortion would do much to improve these statistics, and we are disappointed the ASC didn’t mention it.” The earlier an abortion is carried out, the safer it is for the woman, she said.

The overall abortion figures in the report are not new – these were released in June by Statistics New Zealand – but the report includes other important information, including:

·       As noted, new data on regional variations in duration of pregnancy at the time an abortion is carried out, showing Wellington performs best, and Northland worst.

·       Many women having to travel outside their home region to access abortion services, including: Around 840 from Manawatu-Wanganui; 289 from Southland and 98 from the West Coast.

·       Concern by the ASC that less than 6% of abortions are carried out using the abortion pill. It states that in other countries where medical abortions are available, 20-30 percent of women choose it. This is conservative – in Scotland, over 60% of women do.

·       53% of women having abortions in 2008 were not using any contraception. ALRANZ endorses the ASC’s call for state funding of long-acting methods of contraception.

·       Right to Life’s court case aimed at restricting abortion in New Zealand, has so far cost the Crown $309,097. An appeal has been set for 4 and 5 May, 2010.

·       The ASC reports a wide variation in abortion costs for non-residents (information that has not been provided in previous reports) from $825 in Dunedin Hospital to $2,095 at Christchurch Women’s.

·       The ASC is concerned about a lack of younger doctors providing abortion services and of doctors able to perform second-trimester abortions. Alranz endorses the ASC’s efforts to resolve these workforce issues.

·       98.7% of abortions are carried out on mental health grounds, the same as the previous year. Alranz has consistently maintained this figure shows the need for abortion to be decriminalized in New Zealand.

·       There were 196 certifying consultants (two of whom must approve each abortion) compared with 195 the previous year, whose fees totaled $4,998,870, compared with $5,048,096 the previous year.


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