Most Kiwis back abortion legalisation, especially if woman's life is in danger - study

A new study has found the majority of New Zealanders support legalised abortion in all circumstances, but especially if the woman's life is in danger.

Researchers at the University of Auckland asked participants to rank how supportive they were for legalised abortion "regardless of the reason" and "when the woman's life is in danger" on a seven-point scale.

"For legalised abortion for women, regardless of the reason, we found women were slightly more supportive than men," said corresponding author Yanshu Huang. "Older people were slightly more opposed."

Overall, there was "moderate to high" support for legalised abortion for any reason, and "high" support when the woman's life is in danger.

There was lower support among men, religious people, parents with a higher number of children and those living in deprived neighbourhoods.

There was no difference between men and women when it came to legalisation in cases where the woman's life is in danger, nor any difference between support in rural and urban areas. Gender, parental status,  relationship status, employment status, population density and birthplace also had no correlation when the woman's life is in danger.

Māori are the most supportive overall, and Asian groups the least.

The older people were, the less likely they were to support legalised abortion for any reason, but more likely if the woman's life was in danger.

Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond says the findings are a huge encouragement.

"What this shows is there is a clear majority of people who are supportive of a women's right to make her own decisions."

Ms Edmond says this proves there would be strong support for a law change. The Government is considering a number of options to reform the law, which presently considers abortion a crime unless the mother is able to jump through a loophole.

Ms Edmond says the law must change.

"It's a very demeaning, stigmatising and complex process for women, and it's not needed. What they need is good information, and they should be able to make their own decisions."

Ms Edmond says the research will give Parliament added confidence to make reforms.

"Parliamentarians will hopefully have the decision in their hands later this year, and the right decision is to go with trusting women to make their own healthcare decision."

The findings were published Friday in the New Zealand Medical Journal.

Around one-in-five pregnancies in New Zealand ends in abortion, recent data from Statistics NZ shows - down from 25 percent 15 years ago.