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Abortion Statistics: Year ended December 2013
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  18 June 2014
Commentary

Induced abortions down in 2013

Number of abortions: A total of 14,073 abortions were performed in New Zealand in the year ended December 2013, down from 14,745 in 2012. This is the lowest number since 1995 (13,652). The highest number of induced abortions recorded in New Zealand was 18,511 in 2003.

Previous abortions: In 2013, 8,940 abortions were the woman's first abortion, down from 9,160 in 2012. Almost 24 percent of women having an abortion in 2013 reported having had one previous abortion and 13 percent reported two or more.

Duration of pregnancy: A greater proportion of abortions are now performed earlier in the pregnancy. In 2013, 56 percent of abortions were performed in the ninth week of gestation or earlier, compared with 36 percent in 2006. In contrast, 38 percent of abortions were performed between the 10th and 13th week, compared with 59 percent in 2006.

Abortion rate drops in 2013

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 Definitions and Data quality sections have more information.

Abortion rates: The general abortion rate (abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years) decreased from 16.1 per 1,000 in 2012 to 15.4 per 1,000 in 2013. This is the lowest rate since 1994, when it was 15.3 per 1,000.

 Graph, General abortion rate, 1980–2013.

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 2013 was 460 abortions per 1,000 women, 5 percent lower than the rate of 484 per 1,000 in 2012.

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. However, the abortion rate for women in this age group has dropped from a peak of 41 abortions per 1,000 women aged 20–24 years in 2003, to 27 in 2013.

There has also been a notable decrease in the abortion rate for women aged 15–19 years – down from 27 per 1,000 in 2007 to 14 in 2013.

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, 1980–2013.  

Proportion of known pregnancies ending in an abortion: In 2013, the abortion ratio was 192 abortions per 1,000 known pregnancies, compared with 193 in 2012. The 2013 ratio is the lowest recorded since 1995 (191 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 2013 is not available for many countries, so comparisons are made using 2012 data unless otherwise stated. In 2012, the general abortion rate (number of abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years) for New Zealand was 16.1 per 1,000. 

The following countries had lower rates:

  • Germany (7.4)
  • the Netherlands (8.5)
  • Finland (10.3)
  • Scotland (12.0)
  • Denmark (14.8)
  • Norway (15.3).

In England and Wales (16.4) the abortion rate was similar to New Zealand, while the United States (16.9 in 2011), and Sweden (20.7) had higher rates.

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

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