As the election campaign hit top gear, an important news item went right under the radar and, as far as I know, was not reported in any media. Statistics New Zealand announced that 16,630 induced abortions were performed last year.
This is the third and most substantial (920) consecutive annual reduction, and the lowest number since 2001. The figures, usually announced (and ignored by the media) in June, were late this year because of disruptions caused by the Christchurch earthquake in February, Statistics NZ said.
You can be sure that you won't hear this subject mentioned by politicians on the stump, except perhaps for Labour list MP Steve Chadwick who was tossed out of her Rotorua electorate seat in the last election, a rejection which will be repeated this month.
The former midwife and Associate Health Minister last year floated an Abortion Law Reform Bill that proposed a change to the law which would remove abortion from the Crimes Act, make it simply a health matter and effectively allow abortion on demand.
It would remove the requirement for patients to see two certifying consultants, increase access to medical abortions and, horrendously, allow abortions to be performed at up to 24 weeks' gestation.
As the law stands, abortions are not permitted after 20 weeks. Only a handful are approved after that, and are invariably a result of a direct threat to the life of the mother.
It is significant that when Mrs Chadwick floated her bill (the law has been unchanged, but observed mainly in the breach, for 30 years), no one - not her leader, Phil Goff, Prime Minister John Key, nor any other parliamentarian - had a word to say about it.
Fortunately she has been dropped down Labour's list for this election and, if the polls are any guide, is in danger of disappearing from Parliament altogether. That would be no bad thing. Late-stage butchering of fetuses would be an abomination too far.
Meanwhile, those of us who are of the pro-life persuasion can take comfort in the figures and pray that they are an indication that the abortion option is losing its appeal.
However, it is disturbing that repeat abortions numbered 6407, or 39 per cent, of the total. Second abortions were done on 4427 women, 1332 had their third, 446 their fourth, 136 their fifth, 47 their sixth, 10 their seventh and nine their eighth or more.
While the number of abortions performed on girls aged 11 to 14 rose by five to 84, the number in the 15 to 19 age group dropped by more than 500 to 3389. But the fact remains that 20 per cent of abortions are performed on teenage girls.
As Bob McCoskrie, national director of Family First NZ, says: "This is a tragedy for the girls involved, some as young as 11. It is also devastating for the extended family, especially if the young girl has been sneaked off for the abortion by Family Planning or a school counsellor without the parents' knowledge or consent."
Ken Orr, of Right to Life, says the statistics "reflect the continuing saga of the exploitation and abandonment of women and the destruction of innocent human life.
"Right to Life is pleased that there are probably nearly 1000 babies alive today who would have been killed if there had been no reduction. The continued reduction in the abortion rate gives hope that New Zealand is rejecting a culture of death."
In spite of a Court of Appeal ruling, I remain persuaded that abortion violates the right to life of the child. It not only destroys the life of an innocent baby, but can cause grief and serious psychological damage to the mother, who is the second victim of abortion.
I remain adamant, too, that it is always wrong to kill the innocent. The disposal of 16,630 potential New Zealanders is a tragedy for this country. Any nation that kills its own children does not have a future.
It is also a national tragedy that many of the unborn babies destroyed last year were not made available for adoption. In 1969 there were 2500 adoptions in New Zealand; last year there were only 40. There are thousands of families who would love to provide a loving home and one has to wonder why governments promote abortion over adoption? I presume it's because adoption is no longer seen as politically correct.
As Bernard Moran, national president of Voice for Life, puts it: "Those 16,630 dead babies are a symbol of the failure of imagination and will on the part of government, social services and the medical profession to look at humane alternatives to abortion. Those babies didn't have to die. They may have been unwanted by their parents, but they would have been wanted by plenty of others."
Amen to that.