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Abortion Statistics: Year ended December 2010
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  28 October 2011

Delayed release of 2010 abortion statistics
Induced abortions down in 2010
Abortion rate drops in 2010
International comparisons should be interpreted with care

Delayed release of 2010 abortion statistics

The Christchurch earthquake on 22 February 2011 disrupted the processing of abortion statistics. Processing is usually undertaken in Statistics New Zealand's Christchurch office, which was damaged in the February earthquake.

The disruption delayed the release of the abortion statistics for the year ended December 2010 originally scheduled for 17 June 2011.

Induced abortions down in 2010

Number of abortions: A total of 16,630 abortions were performed in New Zealand in the year ended December 2010, down from 17,550 in 2009, and the lowest number since 2001 (16,410). The highest number of induced abortions recorded in New Zealand was 18,510 in 2003.

Previous abortions: In 2010, 10,220 abortions were the woman's first abortion, down from 11,100 in 2009. About 27 percent of women having an abortion in 2010 reported having had one previous abortion and 12 percent reported two or more.

Duration of pregnancy: A greater proportion of abortions are now performed earlier in the pregnancy. In 2010, 56 percent of abortions were performed in the ninth week of gestation or earlier, compared with 36 percent in 2006. In contrast, 39 percent of abortions were performed between the 10th and 13th week, compared with 59 percent in 2006.

Abortion rate drops in 2010

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. For more information see the Definitions and Data quality sections.

Abortion rates: The general abortion rate (abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years) decreased from 19.2 per 1,000 in 2009 to 18.1 per 1,000 in 2010. This is the lowest rate since 1999 (18.0 per 1,000).

 Graph, General abortion rate, 1980 to 2010.

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 2010 was 547 abortions per 1,000 women, 6 percent lower than the rate of 583 per 1,000 in 2009.

Abortion rates and age of woman: 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 (33 abortions per 1,000 women aged 20–24 years in 2010).

Age-specific abortion rates decreased for most age groups between 2009 and 2010. The 15–19 year age group had the biggest decrease, down 12 percent compared with 2009.

Lower abortion rates indicate that the decrease in the number of abortions was due to fewer women having abortions rather than to changes in the size or age structure of the population.

Graph, Age-specific abortion rates, 1980 to 2010.  

Proportion of known pregnancies ending in an abortion: In 2010, the abortion ratio was 205 abortions per 1,000 known pregnancies, down from 218 per 1,000 in 2009 and the lowest recorded since 1996 (204 per 1,000). Known pregnancies include live births, stillbirths, and induced abortions combined.

International comparisons should be interpreted with care 

Statistical coverage and laws relating to induced abortion affect international comparisons of abortion statistics. Induced abortions are not a notifiable procedure in many countries and statistics on abortion rates are not available for many countries. Consequently, differences between abortion rates for New Zealand and other countries should be interpreted with care.

International data for 2010 is not available for many countries, so comparisons are made using 2009 data unless otherwise stated. In 2009, the general abortion rate (number of abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years) for New Zealand was 19.2 per 1,000. 

The following countries had lower rates:

  • Germany (7.2)
  • the Netherlands (8.8)
  • Finland (10.6)
  • Scotland (12.6)
  • Denmark (15.3)
  • Norway (16.4) 
  • England and Wales (17.0)
  • France (17.2).

In Australia (19.3 in 2004), and the United States (19.6 in 2008) the abortion rate was similar to New Zealand, while Sweden (20.8) had a higher rate.

For more detailed data see the Excel tables in the ‘Downloads’ box.

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