WELLINGTON - An 11-year-old was one of nearly 3000 young females who had an abortion last year, according to data from the Ministry of Youth Affairs.

Last year 2962 abortions - about 250 a month - were carried out on females aged between 11 and 19 years.

Jane MacDonald, of the Parkview Clinic, Wellington, said most of those abortions were done on young women aged 15 to 19.

Fifty-six girls aged 14 or under had an abortion in 1997, compared with 2497 aged 15 and over.

Last year more than 15,000 abortions across all age groups were carried out. The figure includes cases where the baby was abnormal.

Jane MacDonald said successive Governments had ignored advice from specialists pleading for compulsory education to help reduce the rate.

"No one wants to be doing abortions. There will always be a need for some women to have an abortion but not at the rates that it is in this country," she said.

Only this month the Abortion Supervisory Committee had presented its annual report to Parliament but was told that because it was an election year their recommendations would not be carried out.

"They said `we are not going to carry out any [of your advice] because it's an election year and it's too emotive,'" said Jane MacDonald.

Committee members were outraged but were used to the Government sidestepping responsibility, she said.

The number of terminations had been steadily increasing throughout the past decade, said Jane MacDonald.

She said most would have been because the youngsters were sexually active, while some would have been the result of abuse.

Recommendations from the specialist committee included compulsory sexual health education in primary schools and a huge campaign using various media, including youth television and magazines.

In the Netherlands the abortion rate was half of New Zealand's because they had compulsory education, free contraceptives and free terminations on demand, Jane MacDonald said.

Also in 1997, nearly 300 girls under 15 were treated for a sexually transmitted disease. A further 6843 aged 15 to 19 with STDs sought help from clinics nationwide.

Those under 19 made up 21 per cent of all patients attending STD clinics nationwide.

However, it was believed the real number of youngsters with STDs was much higher.

The ministry is developing Government policy on improving young people's sexual and reproductive health.

Young people's access to information needed to protect themselves from pregnancy and STDs is a focus area.

Another focus targets young men to encourage them to help prevent STDs and unplanned pregnancies.

The ministry plans to consult young people directly on ways to solve the problems.

The Minister of Youth Affairs, Tony Ryall, was not available for comment. - NZPA