Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Aborting Stereotypes

One of the reasons that abortion seems to be such a touchy issue is that we very rarely hear from those for whom the decision is not merely an abstract concept but a very real medical procedure. This provides an ideal environment for hate and hyperbole to overtake compassion and rationality.

Unfortunately very few women are willing to go public about their experiences and quite frankly who can blame them? The only time it is permissible for a woman to publicly state she's had an abortion is if she expresses sorrow and remorse, both valid emotions for some, but not always and to admit otherwise is open yourself up to vicious and vindictive personal attacks. Thus the picture that the general public has of those visiting the abortion clinic is quite likely to be a young teenager or even a tween.

But is this a realistic picture of abortion and who is exactly is painting it? The Herald was all too happy to quote Family First's statistics from its Media Release as the bible. The organisation, which advocates mandatory ultrasounds for all women contemplating abortion, has a very vested interest in painting abortion as a scourge of the youth and sure enough they did:

"Since 1991, the number of 11-14 year olds having an abortion has increased by 144%. The number of abortions for 15-19 year olds has increased by 74%. Each week, almost 80 teenagers have an abortion, and represent almost a quarter of all abortions performed in NZ.”

But is that an accurate snapshot of abortion?

Well no, just a small part of the picture.

According to the 2006 abortion statistics from Statistics New Zealand, the median age of women having an abortion was 24.5 years a figure that has remained stable at around 25 years over the last twenty years. In fact the age group that has the highest abortion rate aren't teenagers but the 20-24 age group followed by those women aged 25-29 years. Far more women over the age of 40 are having abortions than under the age 15 and contrary to public opinion the abortions weren't necessarily the result of a one night stand. A previous of study of abortion by Statistics NZ found that over almost 40 per cent of women undergoing an abortion were either married, in a defacto relationship or separated. Moreover half had already had at least one child when they decided to undergo an abortion. Yes that's right, half of the 18,000 abortions that happen in this country are being undertaken by women who are also mothers.

An interesting picture and far more complex than the one we are usually presented with.

Update: Thanks to I/S for the link to report from the Abortion Supervisory Committee. Interestingly those having abortions under the age of 15 make up less than 1 per cent of the total number. One wonders where Family First is getting their statistics from.


William said...

Unless I'm missing it, the statistics don't even mention the 11-14 year olds. Can you point me at where I can actually find them?

That someone is stupid enough to bring this debate up in NZ makes me want to write an article for the local student magazine (presuming someone better qualified (re: female) doesn't do it before me) but I'd really like to find WHERE Family First is generating it's statistics from. And I'm really not that expert at searching stats New Zealand place.

Idiot/Savant said...

The latest report from the Abortion Supervisory Committee can be found here.

If you want 2007 stats, you might need to OIA them.

The ex-expat said...

Thanks for that report I/S! Very interesting.

Nikki (Mother of the Devil Child) said...

For anyone who has ever made a trip to the clinic, the diverse range of people who have terminations is obvious. The majority of women I saw there were above twenty, quite a few who had their children there, most with male company (I can only assume their partners - though would hate to have gotten that wrong!), and a few present who were obviously around 40.

Kakariki said...

re going public about experiences, I can understand why people don't given the visciousness that pops up in the debate.

Here's a post I wrote about this a few years ago where I recount my experiences http://radicalcrossstitch.com/2005/06/20/stuff-abortions-and-a-bit-more-stuff/
I thought about updating it but having reread it, it all still holds true and seems best to leave it alone.

I hope that it helps as a positive contribution to the debate.


Joanna said...

I was out at dinner last night and we were discussing abortion, and my friend piped up with "when I had one, I made the worst joke ever" and proceeded to tell the story, and we all laughed at the very very very terrible joke, and it just felt really right, that someone could open up and be honest in a capacity like that free of blame or hurt or shame. Except for the shame of the terrible joke which was brought on by the gas, of course...

Ari said...

I got the level of detail FF got from Statistics NZ, which has multi-year statistics:


I can verify that their statistics are numerically correct, but focus on narrow parts of the picture. Their numbers quoting large increases focus on a very small group of girls having abortions, so it makes the increase look very large even though it's only a tiny fraction of the population involved. (not that pre-teen abortions are ever anything but serious, but 144% increase looks very alarming compared to "52 more girls than fifteen years ago", especially given our population increase)

I'll be making more posts about this as the week goes on- I probably have about two or three posts worth of stuff to work through, and those of you who've read my blog know how long my posts are, lol :P

The Hairy Armpit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The ex-expat said...

Hairy armpit,
You missed my point. Abortion actually isn't a young girls issue. Over 99% of the women getting an abortion are over the age of 15 and half are in either the 20-24 or 25-29 age group. Hardly young girls.

The Hairy Armpit said...

I thought I made some great points about abortion and the debate in general.

I won't bother with your threads next time ex ex pat. I think what you said to me was rude and uncalled for.

The ex-expat said...

Hairy armpit,
You mistake criticism for abuse. But at this point, I'm going to call you out as the troll you most certainly are.

Julie said...

Alrighty, can we get a chill pill? Armpit - Stef wasn't disagreeing with any of your points, except to point out that her post was about questioning a stereotype that you seemed to accept in your comment (which I note you have now deleted, so no one can look back and assess it).

What I find encouraging about the debate online so far on this issue is the number of people speaking out for choice, and doing so eloquently and using a lot of factual links etc. Thanks for contributing to this Stef, this is a great post. Many years ago I read an article in Next based on similar stats and I've long regretted that I didn't keep a copy so I'm really glad you have made this argument for us all :-)