About 17 per cent of pregnancies in Northland end in abortion - though termination rates among teenagers have more than halved in the past decade.

While the Northland rate was lower than the national average of 185 abortions per 1000 known pregnancies (18.5 per cent), Northland's rate appeared to have stagnated and was not lowering as quickly as elsewhere in New Zealand.

The abortion rate per 1000 pregnancies was based on a three-year average, with the most recent statistics, released this week, taking into account 2013, 2014 and 2015. The number of abortions in the region increased slightly last year to 449, from 431 the year before, though this reflected population growth rather than an increase in the procedure's popularity, Statistics New Zealand said.

Of the 449, 81 were performed on women aged under 20; 111 on women 20-24; 105 were aged 25-29 and 152 were over 30.


Northland figures showed a large decrease in teenagers having an abortion, with last year's 81 compared to a 2007 peak of 176.

Rates among older women were much more stable over the past decade.

Family Planning national medical adviser Dr Christine Roke said an overall downward trend in abortions, particularly among younger women, could be put down to better sex education and an increase in the use of long-term contraceptives. In regions such as Northland it was important to consider access to sexual health services - geographically and financially.

She said while the pill was 99 per cent effective against pregnancy when used correctly, "normal" use meant the rate was closer to 91 per cent. This was exacerbated by drug and alcohol use - a social issue which if properly addressed could see the abortion rate lower further, Ms Roke said.

Whangarei Voice for Life advocate Steve Jaunay said his personal opinion was that abortion was often "rushed through in an atmosphere of coercion while the woman is in emotional shock", and that trauma following the procedure was possible.

"If there is an unwanted pregnancy, there needs to be genuine care and support, a real health service," he said.