Abortion rates in New Zealand are continuing to trend downwards, but law reform is still urgently needed, the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand (ALRANZ) says.
ALRANZ President Terry Bellamak says it is encouraging the Committee has called for reform of the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977, but says law reform needs to go much further.
“The Committee has asked for reform of some of the language in the Act, which reflects that it was passed nearly 40 years ago.
“But ALRANZ believes that doesn’t go nearly far enough.
“Women have the right to decide what happens to their own bodies, but the current law does not recognise this.
“Women should be able to make decisions about their own health, without needing the approval of two doctors.
“We renew our call to the government for a full overhaul of New Zealand’s abortion legislation.”
The 2016 report from the Abortion Supervisory Committee shows that 13,155 abortions were performed in the 2015 calendar year.
The Committee notes this is a very small increase of 18 on the previous year, but a slight decrease on a per-capita basis due to population growth.
The “abortion ratio” – that is, the number of abortions per 1000 pregnancies – has fallen to 177, the lowest since 1993.
“This news is heartening, but the deeper you delve into the statistics, the clearer it is that issues about abortion access still remain in Aotearoa,” Ms Bellamak says.
“For example, 605 women who live in the Manawatu-Whanganui region received abortions in 2015, but fewer than 15 of those were delivered at Palmerston North Hospital and none in Whanganui.
“This shows women are being forced to travel significant distances to access abortion services, and this shouldn’t be happening.”