Teen abor­tion rates con­tinue to trend down

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

Women in their late 20s are hav­ing the largest num­ber of abor­tions, while rates con­tinue to de­cline among teens.

The New Zealand abor­tion rate in­creased slightly in 2017 to 13.7 abor­tions per 1000, com­pared to 13.5 in 2016, ac­cord­ing to Sta­tis­tics New Zealand’s an­nual re­lease of data.

The 2016 abor­tion rate was the low­est in 25 years.

In to­tal, 13,285 in­duced abor­tions were per­formed in 2017, an in­crease of 462 (3.6 per­cent) on the pre­vi­ous year.

About one in ev­ery five preg­nan­cies ended in abor­tion – or 18 per cent of all live births, still births and abor­tions – the data showed.

The ma­jor­ity of abor­tions in 2017 were per­formed for women aged be­tween 24 and 29, with 3632 pro­ce­dures. In teenagers, the abor­tion rate was 1414, a fur­ther trend down from 1635 in 2015 and 1451 in 2016.

Among the 20-24 age group, 3599 pro­ce­dures were per­formed.

Fam­ily Plan­ning chief ex­ec­u­tive Jackie Ed­mond said this was not sur­pris­ing be­cause women were more sex­u­ally ac­tive at that stage of their lives.

The 2017 fig­ures showed more abor­tions were be­ing done in the early stages of preg­nancy, which she said was a good sign.

For ter­mi­na­tions un­der eight weeks, women can be given pills and have the abor­tion at home. Af­ter that, abor­tion is a sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dure.

The sta­tis­tics showed providers were ‘‘mov­ing women through the sys­tem’’ quicker at an early stage and this gave women more choice, Ed­mond said.

‘‘It means hope­fully we are get­ting bet­ter ac­cess to early med­i­cal abor­tion and it means providers are able to do that sooner than they have in the past.’’

She said 59 per cent of abor­tions in New Zealand were per­formed un­der 10 weeks, com­pared with 81 per cent in Bri­tain.

Fam­ily Plan­ning had not ac­tively pro­moted early med­i­cal abor­tions but Ed­mond as­sumed in­for­ma­tion about them had in­creased by word of mouth.

The de­cline in abor­tions among teenagers may re­flect bet­ter ac­cess to long-term con­tra­cep­tion, such as the Jadelle im­plant.

Fam­ily First NZ was pleased the rate of abor­tion had re­mained low but said the trend could be re­versed if Par­lia­ment ‘‘in­tro­duces ex­treme abor­tion laws’’.

‘‘The rate will con­tinue to drop as knowl­edge of the pre-na­tal de­vel­op­ment of the un­born child in­creases, and as an in­creas­ingly pro-life younger gen­er­a­tion be­come par­ents them­selves,’’ spokeswoman Ma­rina Young said. Brain dam­age has been con­firmed for a young mum who suf­fered a heart at­tack while vis­it­ing her pre­ma­ture baby in hos­pi­tal.

North Shore res­i­dent Kate Mel­drum gave birth to daugh­ter Ruby on May 6 af­ter 26 weeks and five days ges­ta­tion, with Ruby weigh­ing just 530 grams.

The 29-year-old then suf­fered a rup­tured heart valve while vis­it­ing Ruby in Auck­land City Hos­pi­tal’s Neona­tal In­ten­sive Care Unit (NICU) on May 21 and was rushed into emer­gency open­heart surgery.

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