Non-Resident Birth Care and Abortion

While New Zealand has free ante-natal care for citizens and residents, for non-residents the cost can amount to thousands of dollars.
  • Overseas students coming to New Zealand for their education are often lonely and become easy targets for young men.
  • The culture and society in New Zealand is often greatly different and 'freer' than the one they come from.
  • Most Asian girls are reluctant to use birth control pills and injections as they consider them dangerous.
  • Facing the shame of unmarried motherhood as well as the high cost of birthcare, many girls choose abortion.
  • There is help available from organisations and people opposed to abortion, including some doctors and midwives.
Asian women are considered responsible for a significant proportion of recent New Zealand annual abortion statistics. Should they wish to continue their pregnancy, their options are very limited.

The reason why so many resort to abortion was analysed in a 2003 study entitled "Contraception before and after termination of pregnancy: can we do it better?"

Published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, the study was conducted by Felicity Goodyear-Smith, Senior Lecturer, and Bruce Arroll, Associate Professor at the Auckland Medical School.

In their "Conclusions", the authors comment on their findings: "It is speculated that ethnic Chinese women lack adequate contraceptive education, demonstrate distrust of non-barrier methods, believe men should provide the condom, and mistakenly believe contraception unnecessary for the first week following menstruation."
Abortion may be used for family planning, rather than as back up for contraceptive failure.

"Abortion may be used for family planning, rather than as back up for contraceptive failure. Young Chinese arriving in New Zealand require immediate sexual health education, including accurate contraceptive information. Liaison between primary healthcare sectors and policy makers of immigration and other services assisting overseas students is recommended to provide culturally appropriate education."

The term "Asian" includes a number of ethnicities, including Korean, Japanese, Indian and Thai. However, the authors report that the overwhelming majority of women were ethic Chinese, mostly young, non-resident women in New Zealand as students, or recent immigrants.
Asian women are now the predominant ethnic group having therapeutic abortions.

"A further issue raised by our data is that Asian women, who are now the predominant ethnic group attending the clinic, are not using reliable methods of contraception, either before or after termination. The changing ethnicity of the (abortion) clinic population reflects social and health provision changes within New Zealand."

"Many small-town or rural Maori women used to attend the clinic because therapeutic abortion services were not available in their localities, and this deficiency has now been remedied. New Zealand has also seen a large influx of young Asians, especially Chinese, entering the country as students, and it is the presence of mostly nulliparous (never given birth) Chinese students that is demonstrated by the changed demographics of the women using the clinic services."

Problems with Contraceptive Use
"The lack of contraceptive use by Asian women presenting for termination of pregnancy, and their reliance on condoms post-terminations, are matters of particular concern. These women are predominantly non-resident or recently immigrant Chinese, many of whom are students away from their families, lacking exposure to contraceptive education normally available to young New Zealanders."
Young Chinese women demonstrate a profound reluctance to try any form of contraception other than the condom.

"They demonstrate a profound reluctance to try any form of contraception other than the condom, and will seldom consider using oral contraceptives, which they believe will be harmful to them. This attitude is consistently reported by (abortion) clinic staff, both nurse counsellors and doctors, including the two ethnic Chinese nurses employed by the clinic, who meet with similar resistance from Asian patients to consideration of oral contraceptive use. A study of ethnic Chinese women presenting for abortion in Canada, found a negative attitude toward oral contraceptives. Although a formal assessment of reasons for contraceptive choice was not conducted, the subjective impressions of our clinic staff would support this view."

Having Abortions
"The percentage of Asian women having termination of pregnancies nationwide has doubled from 6.5% in 1994, to 13.2% in 2001. The last decade has seen an influx of young Chinese arriving in New Zealand. These include both immigrating families and large numbers of non-residents coming to New Zealand to attend secondary and tertiary educational institutions. The latter are often without family support, and may take advantage of the relative sexual freedom they experience in comparison with the situation in their home country. These young people require immediate sexual health education, including accurate information on contraceptive options, and advice not to consider abortion as a contraceptive method."

Cultural Differences
Many teenagers arriving in New Zealand from overseas are overwhelmed by the cultural differences. The girls, struck with homesickness and an alien culture, are easily seduced by the sexual freedom in this country. The majority of Asian girls come from strict moral cultures where single motherhood is simply not tolerated.
Some go ahead with the abortion procedure simply because they do not realise that help is available.

On finding themselves pregnant, their first thought is that they cannot possibly have the baby. Those who do not really want an abortion often go ahead with the procedure simply because they do not realise that help is available. Others are reluctant to go to organisations they believe will preach to them or try to convert them. One organisation that offers help nationwide in New Zealand is Pregnancy Counselling Services (PCS).

PCS is a voluntary service with specially trained counsellors in branches throughout New Zealand. It has counsellors available by phone 24 hours a day. It offers:
  • friendly, positive, emotional and practical support
  • arrangements for free pregnancy testing
  • telephone or face to face counselling
  • solutions to the problems of accommodation, education, legal aid, medical care, and material requirements
  • the opportunity to think seriously and objectively without emotional pressures, about the pros and cons of adoption and of keeping the baby
  • time and space to evaluate all the alternatives when facing an unintended pregnancy
  • post abortion counselling.
Limited alternatives for non-residents
Women from overseas arrive to give birth in New Zealand hospitals in increasing numbers. Many are allegedly exploiting the system and causing major problems for hospital authorities around New Zealand, who are obliged to care for them and their babies.

This situation is a considerable drain on hospital budgets and the one who ultimately pays is the New Zealand taxpayer.

The Ministry of Health established an "Eligibility Direction" in 2003 to determine who is eligible for publicly funded health services. Ineligible overseas residents are:
  • Overseas women on a short-term immigration permit, or are in NZ to work or visit.
  • Overseas women who enter NZ primarily to have a baby.
These women are not eligible for any Government service such as free midwifery or hospital delivery (where there are no complications the payment is normally about $3,000). However, after giving birth the mother is entitled to free post-natal care, comprising an average of six visits. A first trimester abortion, by contrast, is up to $800.