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Support for Abortion When Mother Is At Risk

Massey Survey Shows Support for Abortion When Mother Or Baby is at Risk

Eighty percent of New Zealanders believe the law should allow a woman to have an abortion if her health is seriously endangered by the pregnancy or she became pregnant as a result of rape or incest; 77% feel the same way if there is a strong chance of a serious defect in the baby, and 73% support legal abortion if a woman’s mental health is seriously endangered by her pregnancy. However, support for legal abortion drops to 50% if a couple simply decide they do not want to have the baby, to 45% if a family has a very low income and cannot afford any more children, or if a woman decides on her own she does not want to have the baby, and to 33% if a woman is not married and does not wish to marry the father.

These findings come from a Massey University School of Communication, Journalism & Marketing mail survey of 935 New Zealanders, conducted between July and November 2009. The questions on abortion were included in the School’s annual survey of political and social issues carried out as part of the International Social Survey Programme. The survey sampled respondents from the Electoral Roll and had a response rate of 44%.

The specific wording of the questions asked and the responses to them are shown below.

Here are a number of circumstances in which a woman
might consider an abortion. Please say whether or not
you think the law should allow an abortion in each case.
% Don’t

If the woman’s physical health is seriously endangered
by the pregnancy

If the woman became pregnant as a result of rape or incest

If there is a strong chance of a serious defect in the baby

If the woman’s mental health is seriously endangered
by the pregnancy

If the couple agree they do not want to have the baby

If the family has a very low income and cannot afford
any more children

If the woman decides on her own she does not want to
Have the baby

If the woman is not married and does not wish to marry
the man

Professor Philip Gendall, head of the research team, said that New Zealanders’ attitudes to abortion depend critically on the particular circumstances. They follow similar patterns regardless of whether the question asks about the legality or morality of abortion, but people are more likely to agree that abortion should be legal than to agree that it is right. Though most New Zealanders are in favour of abortion being legal if either the mother or the baby is at risk, or the pregnancy was the results of rape or incest, support falls sharply in situations where none of these apply.


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