Abortion statistics measure the number of induced abortions that are performed in New Zealand hospitals or licensed abortion clinics.
Induced abortion in New Zealand is regulated under the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977. This act established the Abortion Supervisory Committee (ASC) to oversee the operation of the Act. One of the roles of the ASC is "to obtain, monitor, analyse, collate, and disseminate information relating to the performance of abortions in New Zealand". Stats NZ is responsible for collating, analysing and disseminating abortion statistics on behalf of the ASC.
1936 - Committee of Enquiry established under the chairmanship of D.G. McMillan. One of the key findings of this enquiry was that at that time one in five pregnancies resulted in an induced abortion.
1961 - The oral contraceptive pill comes onto the New Zealand market.
1967 - The British Abortion Act passed.
1974 - The Auckland Medical Aid Centre Abortion Clinic opened.
1975 - The Hospitals Amendment Act was passed. The amendment required "abortions to be carried out only in institutions under the control of a Hospital Board or in approved licensed hospital".
1976 - First year when reporting of an abortion became obligatory.
1977 - The Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act passed.
1978 - Temporary closure of the Auckland Medical Aid Centre Abortion Clinic. There was a significant outflow of women to Australia seeking abortions.
Public hospital abortion facilities opened in Auckland in late 1978.
From 1 April 1978, collection of abortion data became the responsibility of the Abortion Supervisory Committee.
1979 - The outflow of women to Australia seeking an abortion continued. The Auckland Medical Aid Centre Abortion Clinic was granted a new licence.
1980 - Public hospital abortion facilities opened in Wellington.
1983 - Stats NZ agreed to process abortion statistics. The first set of abortion statistics processed by Stats NZ was for the 1983 calendar year.
1998 - Stats NZ took over the responsibility for officially releasing abortion statistics. The first media and information releases contained abortion statistics for the 1997 calendar year.
1999 - "Lived in New Zealand for the past 12 months" question added to the notification form.
2002 - Marital Status question removed from notification form. Ethnicity question changed to align with the 2001 Census question.
2003 - "Lived in New Zealand for the past 12 months" question removed from the notification form. New Zealand residency, country of birth and first arrival in New Zealand question added. - In April the high court ruled that women taking the abortion drug, RU486 (mifepristone), do not have to stay at an authorised clinic until they have miscarried.
2004 - Health domicile question added to the notification form, anaesthetic used question removed.
2006 - New Zealand residency, country of birth and first arrival in New Zealand question removed from notification form. From 1 January 2006 ethnicity will be coded according to the 2005 ethnicity classification.
2008 - New Zealand resident, number of previous stillbirths and miscarriages questions added. Anaesthetic used question reintroduced.
2009 - Fetal abnormality question removed. From March, Gisborne hospital began providing terminations for women in the Tairawhiti district health board area.
2010 - Pharmac funds the long acting reversible contraception, Jadelle, from 1 August 2010.
2012 - Miscarriage, stillbirth, and anaesthetic questions removed. From September, Kew hospital (Invercargill) began providing terminations for women in the Southern district health board area.
2013 - From April, Tauranga Family Planning Clinic began providing medical abortions for women in the Bay of Plenty district health board area.
2014 - Procedure question changed. New options aim to identify medical only or surgical procedures. A new question added on contraception provided at the time of the procedure.
2016 - From October, The Women's Clinic Palmerston North began providing medical abortions for women in MidCentral District Health Board region.
2017 - Two new questions added: Is the woman aged 16 years or over? If no, Has the woman's parent or legal guardian been notified about the abortion?
2019 - The two questions regarding if the woman is aged over 16 years, and whether she had notified her parent or legal guardian were removed.
Availability of Abortion Statistics
Reliable abortion data is available from 1980. Data before this date is available, but the quality is considered of lesser quality and should be used with caution.
Before the enactment of the Hospitals Amendment Act of 1975, there was no legal requirement to report the performance of abortion in New Zealand. The official statistics available prior to September 1975 were limited to the number of abortions reported in public hospitals. Abortion data was collected by the Department of Health and related to abortions carried out under the grounds set out in the Crimes Act 1961.
From 1 April 1978, data collection became the responsibility of the Abortion Supervisory Committee, and abortions were performed in accordance with the procedures set out in the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977, and under the grounds specified in the 1977 and 1978 Amendments to the Crimes Act 1961. Because all legally induced abortions must be notified under the Hospitals Amendment Act 1975, it is assumed that these data provide a complete record of all such abortions performed in New Zealand.
Up until 2004, abortion data was processed for the institution where the abortion was performed and not by the usual residence of the woman. This made it difficult to produce meaningful data on the prevalence of abortion in different regions, as the place at which an abortion is performed may be some distance from the usual residence of the woman concerned.
(The equality of access to abortion facilities throughout New Zealand was a major issue raised by the Abortion Supervisory Committee in their 1999 report to Parliament. They were concerned that many provincial areas either do not offer an abortion service or offer a limited service. This means that women who qualify for an abortion may have to travel to another region.)
In 2004, a new question asking for 'domicile code' was added to ASC Form No. 4. As a result, abortion statistics by regional council area are now available. However, due to different rates of 'not specified region' across hospitals, regional data should be interpreted with care. This is the only subnational data currently available.
For 2004–08, health domicile codes are based on the 2001 health domicile classification (this is based on the 2001 area unit classification).
From 2009, health domicile codes are based on the 2006 health domicile classification (this is based on the 2006 area unit classification) - 2006 boundaries are only used from 2009 because MOH did not release their 2006 version until July 2008).
An analysis of abortion rates by ethnicity is difficult due to classification changes over time, and a lack of comparability between the numerators and the denominators used in calculating the abortion indices.
Abortion data is drawn from the ethnic question used in the Abortion Notification Form. The ethnic question asked on the form has changed over time. The ethnic question asked up until 2001 differed from that used in the Census of Population, which provides the exposed-to-risk population (the denominator used in the calculation of abortion rates). While census encourages multiple response, the abortion notification form tended to elicit a single ethnic response. The effect of these differences will be most noticeable in ethnic groups where the level of multiple ethnicity is relatively high, such as the Māori and Pacific populations, and lowest for groups that are largely recent immigrants to New Zealand (primarily people with a single ethnic background). [The Census form captured more females of mixed ethnicity than the Abortion Notification Form. Consequently, demographers were faced with the formidable problem in the choice of denominator for calculating ethnic abortion rates. The level of abortion rate is directly affected by this choice, in some cases, quite substantially so.]
From 2002, the ethnic question on the Abortion Notification form aligns with the 2001 Census question on ethnicity. Therefore, ethnic data from 2002 will not be strictly comparable with ethnic data for earlier years.
From 1 January 2006, ethnicity will be coded according to the 2005 ethnicity classification. The new classification consists of six broad ethnic groups (European, Māori, Pacific, Asian, MELAA (Middle Eastern, Latin American and African) and Other) compared with five under the previous classification (European, Māori, Pacific, Asian and Other). In addition, a new ethnicity 'New Zealander' has been created within the Other group. Previously 'New Zealander' type responses (eg Kiwi) were coded to New Zealand European.
Before 2005, 'not stated' ethnicity for New Zealand born women was imputed as New Zealand European. This imputation was discontinued in 2005.
Summary of changes to the ASC4 ethnicity question;
- Before 1997, the categories included: European, Māori, Pacific Islander, Other (specify)
- 1997–2001, the categories included: European, Māori, Pacific Islander, Asian, Other (specify)
- 2002–2005, the ethnicity question changed to align with the census question on ethnicity. The categories included: NZ European, Māori, Samoan, Cook Island Maori, Tongan, Niuean, Chinese, Indian, Other (such as DUTCH, JAPANESE, TOKELAUAN). Please state
- 2006 onwards Ethnicity coded to 2005 classifications
Grounds for performing the abortion (s.187A Crimes Act 1961 (as amended))
EITHER where pregnancy is not more than 20 weeks
That the continuance of the pregnancy would result in serious danger to (not being danger normally attendant upon childbirth)
- The life of the woman or girl
- Physical health
- Mental health
The following considerations are also taken into account:
- The age of the woman or girl concerned is near the beginning or the end of the usual childbearing years.
- There are reasonable grounds for believing that the pregnancy is the result of sexual violation.
That there is a substantial risk that the child, if born, would be so physically or mentally abnormal as to be seriously handicapped
That the pregnancy is the result of sexual intercourse between
- A parent and child; or
- A brother and sister, whether of the whole blood or of the half blood; or
- A grandparent and grandchild
That the pregnancy is the result of sexual intercourse that constitutes an offence against section 131(1) of the Crimes Act 1961
That the woman or girl is severely subnormal within the meaning of section 138(2) of the Crimes Act 1961
OR where pregnancy is over 20 weeks
That the miscarriage is necessary to save the life of the woman or girl or to prevent serious permanent injury to her (i) physical health (ii) mental health
Around 98–99 percent of abortions are performed because of serious danger to the mental health of the woman.
Duration of pregnancy
Duration refers to the Xth week not complete weeks. For example, 7 weeks and 5 days is recorded as 8 weeks.
Abortion Supervisory Committee, Stats NZ, Ministry of Health, Health Authorities, Family Planning Association, Churches, Voice for Life - formerly known as SPUC (Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child), Right to Life, Abortion Law Reform Association
Archive abortion statistics webpage
Abortion statistics webpage
For every induced abortion carried out in New Zealand, as approved under the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977, an ASC Form No. 4 (Notification of Abortion) must be completed and forwarded to the Abortion Supervisory Committee (ASC) within one month of the abortion.
An abortion may only be performed in an institution licensed by the Abortion Supervisory Committee for this purpose.
The hospital or clinic send the completed ASC Form No 4 to the Tribunals Unit (a division of the Ministry of Justice). The Tribunals Unit provides the ASC with administrative services. The forms are then sent to Stats NZ who collates abortions data based on information from the notification form. Errors or omissions are referred back to the Tribunals Unit who liaises with the hospital or clinic. When Stats NZ has finished processing the forms they are returned to the Tribunals Unit.
The Population Insights Unit is responsible for producing a range of standard tables and abortion rates (including international indices) required by the ASC. Stats NZ delivers the annual abortion output report to the ASC at the same time as the annual Information and Media releases are made publically available.
Abortion data are aggregated annually and refer to December years.
For 2004–08 health domicile codes are based on the 2001 health domicile classification (this is based on the 2001 area unit classification). From 2009 health domicile codes are based on the 2006 health domicile classification (this is based on the 2006 area unit classification - 2006 boundaries are only used from 2009 because MOH did not release their 2006 version until July 2008).
Confidentiality To comply with Stats NZ's confidentiality protocols, some categories are collapsed or aggregated in tables and datasets.
December year. Statistics New Zealand's aim is to publish Abortion Statistics within 22 weeks of the end of the reference year.