NZ abortions on the rise

Otago Daily Times

Changes to New Zealand legislation in March 2020 has resulted in a three per cent rise in abortions.

After a decade of falling numbers, the Ministry of Health says 13,246 abortions were performed last year.

This number compared to 12,857 in 2019 and 16,630 in 2010.

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

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

It also notes a big spike in women having their pregnancies terminated in the Southern District Health Board area. It says there was a 12 percent increase in abortion numbers between 2019 and 2020 – up from 847 to 956.

The increase was largely driven by an increase in abortions at The Women’s Clinic in Invercargill. Four hundred abortions were carried out at the clinic in 2020 compared with 235 the year before.

Elsewhere in New Zealand, two facilities started providing abortions for the first time last year — Timaru Hospital and the Family Planning Clinic in Whangarei.

The report writers consider it positive that access to abortion services had not decreased due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

They also note changes to the timing of abortions. Last year 45 percent were accessed before eight weeks’ gestation, up from 27 percent in 2019.

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

‘‘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.”

Pope’s advice

Pope Francis has some advice for healthcare workers caught between abortion law changes and their employment.

Legislation legalising abortion makes no difference to it being wrong, he told a group of pharmacists and other medical professionals who met him at the Vatican last weekend.

All healthcare professionals have a right to conscientious objection, just as they have a right to denounce unjust harm inflicted on innocent and defenseless life, he said.

“I have been very clear — it [abortion] is homicide and it is not licit to become complicit.

“Abortion is still morally wrong and healthcare workers should refuse to be part of it.”

The “ethical dimension” of healthcare workers’ and pharmacists’ professions must be supported and protected, he said.

As individuals, all pharmacists handle “medicinal products that may, however, turn into poison.”

Francis advised them to be vigilant to make sure their goal always is to protect “the life of the patient in all of its aspects,” he said.

“You are always at the service of human life, and this may, in certain cases, lead to conscientious objection, which is not disloyalty, rather the opposite, (it is) loyalty to your profession, if validly motivated.”




Additional reading

News category: New Zealand.

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