Parents in dark over secret abortions

Nelson Mail 8 September 2008
Girls as young as 13 are aborting pregnancies in Nelson and don’t need parental consent. Figures obtained under the Official Information Act reveal that 14-year-old girls are getting abortions in Nelson at a rate of about four each year. Over the past five years the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board has performed 271 abortions in the Nelson region on girls aged between 14 and 17. The 2005-2006 financial year, in which two 13-year-olds and nine 14-year-olds received abortions, was the most prolific period for Nelson teen terminations from the five supplied years.

Health board-employed clinicians have refused to comment on the teenage abortions and the board was unable to provide details of how often parents knew their children were having the terminations. Teenagers can have abortions without their parents’ knowledge or consent but school principals are saying their counsellors who often advise pregnant girls on their options are hamstrung by their own code of ethics.

The issue was highlighted this week by a Nelson mother who is calling for a review of abortion laws after her 15-year-old daughter was booked in for an abortion without her mother’s knowledge. The student — whom the Nelson Mail has agreed not to identify — had the operation on Wednesday but her mother said she only found out about the planned procedure when it came up during an argument on Monday. But a school counsellor had known about it and, although unable to tell the mother due to privacy concerns, did not do enough to encourage the girl to inform her parents, the mother said. Her daughter had told her it was common for students to get abortions without their parents’ knowledge, and they were often helped by school counsellors. “Our rights as parents are being taken off us,” said the woman.

A spokesman for Justice Minister Annette King confirmed that a child of any age could get an abortion without parental consent, and that legislation had not changed since 1978. The spokesman was not aware of any moves to change the law.

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