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The Abortion Conflict & Medical Issues


Abortion is a controversial and emotionally charged issue involving pro-life and pro-choice groups. Life.org.nz covers the moral, medical and political issues surrounding abortion.

The Abortion Conflict

Conflict between “Pro-Life” and “Pro-Choice” groups can be emotional and intense, involving political and financial factors motivated by various needs, religious and philosophical beliefs.


Abortion can be an emotional and deeply personal issue. Different words (e.g. baby, unborn baby, embryo, foetus, foetal tissue, “production of conception”, “termination of pregnancy”, or pro-choice, anti-choice, pro-life, etc) are used to influence, persuade, or to make a point.

Informed Consent

Accepted medical procedures require that a patient is provided full information regarding planned procedures including all possible physical and psychological effects. How well women are informed prior to an abortion is an area of contention with claims of such risks being minimised, denied or exaggerated.

Rape and Incest

Approximately an estimated one to two percent of rapes result in pregnancy. A common assumption is that women who have been raped (or who are pregnant as a result of incest) will want to abort. However, there are women who decide to continue their pregnancies.

Influence of the Media

The media has a significant influence on society by the way issues can be presented. The Internet has enabled the controversial issue of abortion to be opened up in a way never before possible with print and television.

Methods of Abortion

The invention of the vacuum suction machine to perform first-trimester abortions made the procedure widely available. Most abortions are carried out towards the end of the first-trimester (three months) of pregnancy. Methods of abortion vary from surgical to chemical (use of drugs). WARNING: Contains graphic images.

Physical Complications

While the risks of abortion are presented differently depending on who is providing the information, risks can include cervical damage, infertility, alleged increased risk of breast cancer, uterine perforation, haemorrhaging (excess bleeding), systematic infection, complications with future pregnancy.

Abortion and Breast Cancer

One of the most researched areas relating to abortion is the alleged link between abortion and breast cancer. Since 1957 there have been 67 studies done concerning induced abortion and breast cancer risk. Of these, 51 showed a positive association and 30 were statistically significant.

Despite these studies the issue remains highly controversial.

Foetal Abnormality

Screening for Foetal Abnormality occurs for pregnant women who are older or have certain medical conditions. Parents can be understandably distressed on being informed of a positive diagnosis. Parent support groups claim that consideration of abortion should be accompanied by information on the existence of support groups that offer an alternative.

Emotional & Societal Issues

Pressures & Coercion

An expectant woman has to deal with many (often conflicting) emotions and pressures. Pressure can arise from employment, housing, financial, educational or social situations. Coercion often occurs from her family and friends, the baby’s father, advisors or counsellors, and religious or other social influences.

Post Abortion Syndrome (PAS)

Women who have experienced trauma resulting from an abortion sometimes suffer from Post-Abortion Syndrome (PAS). Case studies of PAS and some social science research tend to be used by those opposed to abortion.
The existence of PAS as a result of abortion is contested by those who support abortion rights.

Alternatives to Abortion

Current medical practice with first-trimester abortion is to facilitate the procedure as soon as possible. There are doctors who argue that a “breathing space” should be allowed to consider other options.
Alternative options include keeping the baby, granting guardianship to a family member, or Open Adoption where the birth mother keeps in contact with her baby and the adoptive parents.

Human Rights

A woman’s “right to choose” is seen as a central human rights issue of personal autonomy. Other human rights considerations include the rights of the father, the foetus, the legal or “personhood” status of an unborn child, and the rights of medical professionals to hold a conscientious objection to being involved in abortion.

Impact on Society

This section contains research material that covers economic and demographic factors relating to how abortion might impact on various societies.

New Zealand Law

The current law sets out the circumstances or grounds where abortions can be legally performed. Those grounds are cases of incest, where the mother is severely sub-normal, serious danger to the physical or mental health of the mother, or where the child will have a serious handicap.
Around 98% of recorded abortions are performed on mental health grounds.

History of Abortion in New Zealand

Few other issues arouse such strong emotions and passions as abortion. In this feature on the history of abortion in New Zealand, we present the research and accounts from many of the people involved in the campaigns and debates.
The format includes concise overviews of the various issues and events, linked to more detailed information.

A Global history of Abortion

Abortions have been performed and accepted since early in human history according to ancient historical accounts. The Jewish people appear to have been an exception to the general tolerance. The early Christian Church, with its roots in Judaism, condemned abortion from the beginning as can be seen in the earliest Christian writings. Attitudes concerning abortion have shifted from time to time with nations either restricting or liberalising their laws to reflect these changing attitudes.