Teenage abortion rates continue to fall, even as New Zealand's abortion rate remains level, Statistics NZ said today.

Just 10 per cent of abortions in 2018 were for women under 20, down from a peak of 23 per cent 11 years ago. Teenage birth rates have also been steadily falling over the past decade.

There were 13,282 abortions performed in New Zealand in 2018, similar to the year before, according to the latest stats. The abortion rate dropped after a peak in the mid-2000s but is now levelling off.

Around one in five (19 per cent) of known pregnancies ended in an induced abortion last year. That's down from one in four (25 per cent) at the peak in 2003 but has been relatively stable since 2012.


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

Abortion rates for women 30 years and over have stayed relatively stable over the past decade, and now represent a higher proportion of the overall total. In 2018, 38 per cent of abortions were for women aged 30 and over, compared with 28 per cent in 2007.

Abortion is still classified as a crime in New Zealand, and must be signed off by two certifying consultants. It is only allowed when the expectant mother faces serious physical or mental harm from having the baby.

A central plank of any reforms is likely to be a decision on how late in her pregnancy a woman can seek an abortion by choice - expected to be at around 20 weeks' gestation.

The Statistics NZ figures show the majority of women - 60 per cent - last year had their abortion before 10 weeks' gestation, up from 46 per cent in 2008.

The rate for women aged 15–19 years was 8.4 per 1000 women last year, down from 26.7 in 2007.

New Zealand's general abortion rate was 13.5 abortions per 1000 women aged 15–44 in 2018 - the same rate as the United States's most recent figures (2017), but lower than England and Wales at 17 per 1000 women in 2017.


Reactions to the latest statistics were mixed. Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond said they were a reminder of how common a procedure this was for New Zealand women.

"One in four New Zealand women will have an abortion across her lifetime," Edmond said.

"While it's important to understand and track the numbers, we should also be focussed on ensuring that we have a system where women can get the services they need, as early as possible in their pregnancy – following best clinical practice."

Edmond says New Zealand's current laws, including the requirement to speak to multiple doctors, put up significant barriers to accessing services and result in delays and inequity.