Key Points:

Every single day last year some 50 babies were disposed of by induced abortion. Most of them who disappeared into medical waste disposal systems had been in the womb for between nine and 11 weeks, but 1022, or nearly three a day, had survived for 14 weeks or more.

Of the 18,380 abortions performed "legally" in 2007, 104, or two every week, were on girls aged between 11 and 14, and another 4173, or 22.7 per cent, were on girls aged between 15 and 19.

Nearly 24 per cent (4380) were women having their second abortion, and 11.5 per cent (2118) had their third or third-plus abortion.

Half (9197) of those having abortions had never given birth but 19.5 per cent (3582) had had one live child and 30.5 per cent (5603) two or more live children.

Our abortion rate is higher than any other "selected low-fertility" Western country except Sweden, including Australia, Britain, the United States (fractionally), Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands and Norway.

Last year's total is 450 higher than the figure for 2006 and is higher than for any year since 1991 except for 2003, which holds the record at 18,510.

These gruesome facts are dispassionately provided in tables accompanying the report on abortions for 2007 released this week by Statistics New Zealand.

And to no one's surprise the authors point out that "in any year, 98-99 per cent of all abortions are performed because of serious danger to the mental health of the woman" - which, in spite of the protestations of diehard pro-abortionists, provides further proof that we have abortion on demand in this country, contrary to the strict provisions of the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act.

This flies in the face of long-term, objective, scientific studies both here and in Britain that show conclusively that having an abortion is more likely to cause mental health problems later in life than not having one.

Only a couple of weeks ago Justice Forrest Miller, giving his decision on the judicial review of the performance of the Abortion Supervisory Committee sought by the pro-life organisation Right to Life, said: "There is reason to doubt the lawfulness of many abortions authorised by certifying consultants. Indeed, the committee itself has stated that the law is being used more liberally than Parliament intended."

And: "In my opinion, [abortion] statistics and the committee's comments over the years ... do give rise to powerful misgivings about the lawfulness of many abortions. They tend to confirm [the] view that New Zealand essentially has abortion on request."

Justice Miller ruled that, in spite of its argument that it did not have the right to scrutinise the decisions of certifying consultants, the Abortion Supervisory Committee "does in fact have the power to require certifying consultants to keep records and report on cases they have considered".

Just what will happen as a result of Justice Miller's judgment is anybody's guess, but as Bernard Moran, of Voice for Life, points out, the Abortion Supervisory Committee is chosen by and reports to Parliament so it is the MPs who need to take on the task of cleaning up the misuse of the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act.

"You can imagine the alarm among parliamentarians," says Mr Moran, "at the prospect of a full-on abortion debate in the months leading up to the general election."

But, he says, "there is a way out which can avoid much unpleasantness, advance medical knowledge, and serve the interests of New Zealand women faced with a crisis pregnancy".

Mr Moran recalls the 2006 research on abortion and mental health by the Christchurch Health and Development Study, which found that women who had had an abortion had elevated rates of subsequent mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, suicidal behaviour and substance use disorders.

There was, he says, silence from medical bodies and the Ministry of Health, but both the ministry and the Abortion Supervisory Committee later declined to commission any further research.

So, says Mr Moran, Parliament should commission the Christchurch Health and Development Study team to conduct further research before contemplating any changes to the abortion law.

That could furnish both sides of the abortion debate with reliable evidence that shows the way forward.

I doubt that our politicians will have the guts in an election year to go even that far, but it would be a start.

And in the meantime we can take comfort in the thought that live births were up by 8 per cent in 2007, to 64,040, the highest number since 1963.