New Zealand Abortion Rate Lowest in 20 Years; NZ Greens to Push For 'Abortion-on-Demand' Bill

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By Reissa Su | June 19, 2014 4:28 PM EST

New Zealand's abortion rate has plunged to its lowest in 20 years. Women's health experts said the reasons for the decline were not clear.

REUTERS
A balloon with the words "The right to live" is seen among umbrellas during a anti-abortion march, in Madrid November 17, 2013.

According to Statistics New Zealand, the abortion rate was at its 20-year low with 672 induced abortions recorded in 2013. The general abortion rate fell from 16.1 per 1000 in 2012 to 15.4 in 2013. The current abortion rate is the lowest since 1994 when the figure was 15.3 per 1000.

Morgan Healey, Abortion Law Reform Association New Zealand president, said there were speculations regarding the decline. She cited long-acting and reversible contraception as one of the possible reasons as this method allows women to manage their own fertility. 

Healey said more research should be done to identify the reason for the reduction in New Zealand's abortion rate. She said the main reason women hesitate to have an abortion is the Crimes Act.

In New Zealand, a woman can only qualify for abortion if she gets approval from two certified consultants. Reports said the doctor will only perform an abortion if continued pregnancy will bring permanent injury to the woman's physical or mental health.  Another valid reason for abortion would be if the fetus will develop a serious disability if the pregnancy continues.

Jackie Edmond, Family Planning executive, said the country's trend was only in line with international figures. She said access to more reliable contraceptives have empowered women to take more control of their bodies. She said young people had more access to sex education.   

The New Zealand has ratified a policy that would decriminalize abortion for women who are pregnant up to 20 weeks. The ratification makes the Greens the only party in Parliament to have such policy. The party will be legislating the decriminalization of abortion and protect "the right to end a pregnancy."

For Green Party MP Jan Logie, it was time to have abortion removed from New Zealand's Crimes Act. Logie said the issue should be brought from the "shadow of judgment" and "mistrust of women" since it remains a health issue.

ProLife NZ Spokesman Mary-Anne Evers said the party's plan to introduce an "abortion-on-demand" policy is a backward step of the country. 

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(Photo: REUTERS / Javier Barbancho)
A balloon with the words "The right to live" is seen among umbrellas during a anti-abortion march, in Madrid November 17, 2013.
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