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Abortion Statistics: Year ended December 2009
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  17 June 2010
Commentary

Number of abortions

A total of 17,550 abortions were performed in New Zealand in the year ended December 2009, down from 17,940 in 2008, but up from 15,500 a decade earlier in 1999. The highest number of induced abortions recorded in New Zealand was 18,510 in 2003.

Abortion rates

It is important to note that the legal environment and the provision of abortion services affect comparisons over time in abortion rates and in the number of abortions.

The general abortion rate (abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years) decreased from 19.7 in 2008 to 19.2 in 2009. The general abortion rate was 18.0 per 1,000 in 1999.

The total abortion rate measures the average number of abortions that 1,000 women would have during their life (based on current age-specific abortion rates). The total abortion rate for 2009 was 583 abortions per 1,000 women, which is 5 percent higher than the rate of 554 per 1,000 recorded a decade earlier in 1999. However, the 2009 rate is 10 percent lower than the peak rate of 648 per 1,000 in 2003.

Abortions by age of women

Women aged 20–24 years have more abortions than any other age group, accounting for approximately 3 out of 10 abortions in any year. Women in this age group also have the highest abortion rate (36 abortions per 1,000 women aged 20–24 years in 2009). Teenagers (15–19 years) and women aged 25–29 years both had abortion rates of 25 per 1,000 in 2009. The median age (half are younger, and half older, than this age) of women having an abortion was 24 years in 2009. 

Graph, Age-specific abortion rates, 1981–2009.  

Proportion of known pregnancies ending in an abortion

In 2009, the abortion ratio was 218 abortions per 1,000 known pregnancies, similar to 2007 and 2008, but down from 247 per 1,000 in 2003. Known pregnancies include live births, stillbirths, and induced abortions combined. 

Previous abortions

In 2009, 63 percent of abortions were to women who had not had any previous abortions, compared with 67 percent in 1999. Twelve percent of women having an abortion in 2009 reported two or more previous abortions, compared with 9 percent in 1999.

Duration of pregnancy

In 2009, one-half of abortions were performed in the ninth week of gestation or earlier, compared with just under one-third in 2003. Nearly one in five were performed in the 10th week of gestation. 

Ethnicity

Women having an abortion can state more than one ethnicity on the abortion notification form. For this reason, the number of abortions by ethnicity sum to more than the total number of abortions.

In 2009, there were 10,110 abortions to women who identified with the European ethnic group (either as their only ethnic group or as one of their ethnic groups). There were 4,130 abortions to women who identified with the Māori ethnic group, 2,890 women identified with the Asian ethnic group, 2,360 women identified with the Pacific ethnic group, and 220 women identified with the MELAA (Middle Eastern, Latin American, and African) group. Of the 20 women in the 'Other' ethnic group, almost all identified with the New Zealander ethnic group. 

International comparisons

Statistical coverage and laws relating to induced abortion affect international comparisons of abortion statistics. Consequently, differences between the abortion rate for New Zealand and other countries should be interpreted with care.

International data for 2009 is not available for many countries, so comparisons have been made using 2008 data unless otherwise stated. In 2008, the general abortion rate (number of abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years) for New Zealand was 19.7 per 1,000. The following countries had lower rates: Germany (7.2), the Netherlands (8.7), Finland (10.6), Scotland (13.2), Denmark (14.3 in 2006), Norway (16.9), France (17.4 in 2007), and England and Wales (17.6). In Australia (19.3 in 2004), the United States (19.4 in 2005), and Sweden (21.3) the abortion rate was similar to New Zealand.

For technical information contact:
Anne Howard
Christchurch 03 964 8700
Email: demography@stats.govt.nz

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