New Zealanders strongly support legal abortion, especially if a woman's life is in danger, according to a new study from the University of Auckland.
The findings, recently published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, found that of the more than 19,000 people surveyed, 89.3 per cent expressed support for legal abortions for women whose lives were in danger, while 65.6 per cent said they agreed or strongly agreed with a woman's right to choose.
Currently, abortion is only legal under specific circumstances, including pregnancy which poses a risk to life or health, including mental health.
The survey was carried out using the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study (NZAVS), a 20-year nationwide study which surveys New Zealanders on a wide range of social, cultural and health issues over time.
It also examined whether attitudes towards abortion differed across demographic groups, including older people, people of Māori or Asian descent and those from economically deprived areas. It found that there was little difference across the demographics.
However, a comparison between different groups found support for legal abortion, regardless of reason, was weaker among men, older people, those who identified as religious and people from economically deprived areas.
People with a higher number of children and people of Asian descent - relative to NZ Europeans - also expressed less support for legal abortion, regardless of the reason.
Māori showed relatively high levels of support for legal abortion regardless of circumstance, and there was no difference in levels of support between people of Pacific descent and those identifying as European/Pākehā.
PhD researcher Yanshu Huang said previous research on attitudes to abortion showed unexplained differences between studies, which may be because differences in attitude can be influenced by what demographic group people belong to or identify with.
"We included key demographic data such as whether someone identifies as religious or belongs to a particular age or ethnic group, as these factors can potentially influence people's attitudes to abortion," Ms Huang said.