The number of abortions performed in New Zealand is at the lowest rate since 1995, figures reveal.

Statistics New Zealand this morning released abortion figures from 2011 which showed 15,863 abortions were performed last year, 767 less than in 2010.

The general abortion rate - which calculates abortions per 1000 women aged 15 to 44 years - decreased from 18.1 per 1000 in 2010 to 17.3 in 2011.

This was the lowest rate it has been since 1995 when it was 16.1 per 1000 women.


Women aged 20 to 24 continued to have the highest rate of abortions last year, at 33 per 1000 women in that age bracket.

The median age of women having an abortion was 25-years-old.

Sixty two per cent of abortions were a woman's first abortion.

Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand president Morgan Healey said it was hopeful that the drop was the result of an increased access to contraception and the ability of women to choose the timing, spacing and number of children.

"While I am always happy to see a decrease in the abortion figures, which I hope is reflective of the ability of women in New Zealand to have autonomy over their bodies and reproductive decisions, I continue to doubt the Government's commitment to women's equality," Dr Healey said.

The Government's announcement that free contraception would be offered to those on a benefit was a veiled attack on women, she said.

"Taken in isolation, these don't necessarily appear to be restricting women's autonomy, and are often seen as positives.

"However, I worry that an increased focus on what women are doing with their bodies is a slippery slope to enacting policies that seek to restrict sexual and reproductive rights further," she said.


Family First New Zealand national director Bob McCoskrie said he too welcomed the statistics, but raised concern around teenage abortion rates.

An average of 55 teenagers had an abortion each week, he said, amounting to almost one fifth of all abortions last year.

"It is incorrect to label abortion as 'pro-choice', because nobody chooses to be in the situation of an unwanted pregnancy and having to make such a difficult decision."

The rights of women need to be protected so they can make a fully informed decision based on medical facts, he said.