INTEGRATED STRATEGIES REQUIRED TO TACKLE INCREASING ABORTION RATE

  • Jenny Shipley
State Services

The Minister of State Services, Hon Jenny Shipley, today restated the Government's commitment to implementing all elements of the Reproductive and Sexual Health Strategy announced last year, when addressing the Abortion Providers' Conference in Christchurch.

"Our sexual health is a very important public health issue which goes to the heart of personal self worth, personal responsibility, and personal relationships which also includes safe sexual practices, unplanned pregnancies, contraceptive advice and services and abortion services," said Jenny Shipley.

"Access to a safe abortion service is only part of what is required to improve the positive sexual health of New Zealanders.

"Integrated public health strategies designed to change high risk personal behaviour are required if the abortion rate is to come down. Such public health strategies have already proven successful in New Zealand. In particular the Drink-Drive and Smoke-free campaigns have seen many New Zealanders modify their choices and actions, improving the quality of their lives and others.

These two campaigns have been underpinned by the four tools of education, encouragement, enforcement and in the case of roading engineering. In seeking to promote healthier and safer sexual choices for New Zealanders we may well draw valuable insights from studying the use of these tools in developing an integrated approach.

"There is general acceptance that New Zealand's abortion rate is too high. In endeavouring to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions education and encouragement have a vital role to play.

"The upcoming Health and Physical Education curriculum will seek to not only inform young people about sexual health, but also make them aware of the social consequences and responsibilities of their choices.

"The Government sets social policy that reinforces these messages. The proactive strategy of the free provision of some contraceptives and the enforcement of personal responsibility via the Child Support Act are two such examples.

"Government is making progress on the implementation of the Sexual and Reproductive Health Strategy. However I still believe it will take a number of years before we will see any change in trends and this will only happen if attitudes change and if New Zealanders want progress to be made.

"So far progress includes:

Two brands of oral contraceptives are now fully subsidised by PHARMAC:

Purchasing of pilot public health programmes to improve reproductive and sexual health of Pacific Islands people is due to start shortly.

The sale of over-the-counter emergency contraceptive now only requires regulatory change.

The four RHAs are making good progress towards ensuring free consultations for contraceptive advice for women in groups with high abortion rates.
"Whilst public health commentators, experts and interest groups have much to say on our abortion rate, it is often difficult to reach consensus on how we tackle the problem. Just as in the smoking and drink- driving issues we have to develop a comprehensive approach where a changed attitude to our sexual health is achieved.

"I believe the Government's Reproductive and Sexual Health strategy will work if New Zealanders want it to and the continuing public debate should be had within the context of integrating strategies to improve the sexual health of all New Zealanders", concluded Jenny Shipley.