Survey: ‘moderate to high’ support for legal abortion

The Government is currently reviewing abortion law, which currently in practice offers choice but forces women to claim severe mental distress in order to get a ‘legal’ abortion.

Two thirds of people in a survey have shown support for the right of a woman to choose about abortion in any circumstances.

  • 65% agreed or strongly agreed with a woman’s right to choose, under any circumstance
  • 89.3% support abortion if the woman’s life was in danger

It’s a small minority but I think it’s remarkable that 10% oppose abortion if the woman’s life is in danger.

Stuff: Legalised abortion generally supported by New Zealanders – Auckland University survey

University of Auckland PhD student, Yanshu Huang, analysed the attitudes of 19,973 people who took part in the 2016/17 New Zealand Attitudes and Values study, a national longitudinal study of people aged over 18.

Huang, a research assistant at the university’s Public Policy Institute, said the results suggested “the majority of New Zealanders are supportive of legalised abortion” and were “quite open” to legislative change.

The findings, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal on Friday, found “moderate to high” support for legalised abortion regardless of the reason, and “high” support when a woman’s life was under threat.

Changing perceptions and the conversation around abortion law reform prompted Huang to look at not just how many people support legalised abortion, but what factors influenced their support.

The research was completed as part of Huang’s doctoral dissertation at the School of Psychology.

As well as rating their attitudes, participants were asked their age, gender, ethnicity, religious affiliation, parental status, number of children, relationship and employment status and level of education.

Overall, men expressed “only slightly” less support than women for legalised abortion for any reason, Huang said.

Being older, identifying as religious, being of lower socioeconomic status and having lower levels of education were also linked to being less supportive of abortion, regardless of the reason.

Those who identified as religious expressed less support no matter what the circumstance.

That isn’t surprising – but the numbers suggest that many people who identified as religious support abortion, especially when the woman’s life is in danger.

Minister for Justice Andrew Little welcomed the results of the research.

“This is an important public conversation, and one in which women’s voices, experiences, and safety must be prioritised,” he said.

Little said he looked forward to “progressing both the public and policy discussions” around abortion law reform in the coming months. ​

October 2018: Law Commission abortion law reform briefing received

Justice Minister Andrew Little received today the Law Commission’s briefing on alternative approaches to abortion law.

“Our abortion law is over forty years old, starts with the proposition that an abortion is a crime. In February, I asked the Law Commission for advice on treating abortion as a health matter could look like,” Andrew Little said.

“I acknowledge that the subject of abortion is a personal one for each MP. I will be taking time to talk to my colleagues across all parties about the Law Commission’s briefing before progressing further,” Andrew Little said.

The Law Commission’s briefing examines what abortion law could look like if abortion was treated as a health issue. The paper outlines:

  • three models for when abortion is available
  • changes to:
    • the criminal aspects of abortion law
    • access to abortion services, where abortions are performed, and by whom
    • the oversight of abortion services
  • related issues, such as women’s informed consent, counselling services, and conscientious objection by health practitioners.

The Law Commission’s briefing paper is available at here: www.lawcom.govt.nz/abortion

Abortion statistics: Year ended December 2018

There were 13,282 abortions performed in New Zealand in 2018, similar to the year before.

In 2018, 19 percent of known pregnancies (live births, stillbirths, and induced abortions) ended in an induced abortion. This ratio has decreased since its peak in 2003 (25 percent) but has been relatively stable since 2012.

Women in their 20s were most likely to have an abortion in 2018, accounting for 52 percent of all abortions.

Abortions for women under 20 have been decreasing since the peak in 2007. In 2018, 10 percent of abortions were for women under 20, compared with 23 percent 11 years ago.

In comparison, the proportion of abortions for women 30 years and over has been increasing. In 2018, 38 percent of abortions were for women aged 30 and over, compared with 28 percent in 2007.

In 2018, 19 percent of known pregnancies (live births, stillbirths, and induced abortions) ended in an induced abortion. This ratio has decreased since its peak in 2003 (25 percent) but has been relatively stable since 2012.

More women are having abortions earlier. In 2018, 60 percent of abortions were performed before 10 weeks of pregnancy. This compares with 46 percent in 2008, and 38 percent in 1998.

I get the sanctity of life arguments, but with abortions the life of the woman is involved, with a foetus being fully dependent on the woman for the chance of life.

A statistic I haven’t seen is how much the number of abortions affects the eventual number of lives/babies.

Contraception is almost universally accepted as a prudent means of birth control, and also an essential means of limiting population increases.

As far as ‘lives’ are concerned, there seems to be no practical difference between:

– a woman using birth control, then ceasing birth control and having two children, then preventing any further pregnancies through birth control

– a woman having an abortion, subsequently using birth control, then ceasing birth control and having two children, then preventing any further pregnancies through birth control

If birth control or abortion defers the timing of having a family until a parent or parents are better able to care and rear, that must generally be a positive.