MJA
MJA

Estimating Australia’s abortion rates 1985–2003

Med J Aust 2005; 182 (9): 447-452.

Summary

Aim: To estimate national rates of induced abortion in Australia from 1985 to 2003, using Medicare claim statistics for private patients and hospital morbidity statistics for public patients.

Design and setting: Estimates were based on Australian and South Australian data collections relating to abortions. SA hospital morbidity statistics were compared with SA statutory notifications of abortions to estimate the accuracy of these collections. Medicare statistics on abortion procedures performed on private patients in South Australia were then compared with hospital morbidity statistics for private patients. National statistics on abortion derived from Medicare and hospital morbidity statistics were adjusted for inaccuracies found in these sources.

Main outcome measures: Numbers of induced abortions in Australia for each year from 1985 to 2003; abortion rates per 1000 women aged 15–44 years.

Results: Abortion numbers based on Medicare claims by private patients overestimated by 18.7% the number of abortions derived from statutory notifications in South Australia during the period 1988–89 to 1999–00. Hospital morbidity data using principal diagnosis codes relating to medical abortion overestimated statutory notifications by 2.3% (mainly because of readmissions). National statistics were adjusted for these overestimations and for the estimated 14.1% of private patients who would not have submitted Medicare claims (based on surveys of private-clinic patients in New South Wales and Victoria). The estimated Australian abortion rate increased from 17.9 per 1000 women aged 15–44 in 1985 to a peak of 21.9/1000 in 1995, then declined to 19.7/1000 in 2003 (estimated number of abortions, 84 460).

Conclusion: There are no data currently available for deriving accurate numbers of induced abortions in Australia. Suggestions are made for collection of national statistics.

Please login with your free MJA account to view this article in full

  • Annabelle Chan1
  • Leonie C Sage2

  • Epidemiology Branch, Department of Health, Adelaide, SA.

Correspondence: 

Acknowledgements: 

We would like to thank the National Centre for Classification in Health and the Medical Record Advisory Unit of the SA Department of Health for advice about coding; the Medicare Benefits Branch of the Australian Department of Health and Ageing for Medicare statistics; the Casemix Costing Section of the Australian Department of Health and Ageing for national hospital morbidity statistics; Julie Mitchell, Manager of the Integrated South Australian Activity Collection (ISAAC), Kelvin Watson of the Data Operations Centre, and Kevin Priest of the Health Statistics Unit, Epidemiology Branch, SA Department of Health, for SA hospital morbidity statistics; and Maureen Fisher of the Pregnancy Outcome Unit, SA Department of Health, for preparing the graph. We also thank Jeffrey Robinson, Chair of the SA Abortion Reporting Committee, for his helpful comments.

Competing interests:

None identified. The opinions expressed are solely those of the authors.

  • 1. Laws PJ, Sullivan EA. Australia’s mothers and babies 2001. Sydney: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare National Perinatal Statistics Unit, 2004: 39. (AIHW Cat. No. PER 25; Perinatal Statistics Series No 13.)
  • 2. Expert panel of the National Health and Medical Research Council. An information paper on termination of pregnancy in Australia. Canberra: NHMRC, 1996.
  • 3. McLennan W. Australian social trends 1998. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1998: 32. (ABS Cat. No. 4102.0.)
  • 4. Henshaw SK, Haas TA, Berentsen K, Carbone E. Readings on induced abortion. Vol 2: A world review 2000. New York: Alan Guttmacher Institute, 2001.
  • 5. De Crespigny L, Savulescu J. Abortion: time to clarify Australia’s confusing laws. Med J Aust 2004; 181: 201-203.<eMJA full text>
  • 6. Committee Appointed to Examine and Report on Abortions Notified in South Australia (CAERANSA). Annual reports, 1970–2002. Adelaide: South Australian Government Printer, 1971–2003.
  • 7. South Australian Abortion Reporting Committee. First annual report — for the year 2003. Adelaide: Parliament of South Australia, 2005.
  • 8. Chan A, Scott J, Nguyen A-M, Keane RJ. Pregnancy outcome in South Australia. (Annual reports 1985–2002.) Adelaide: Pregnancy Outcome Unit, Epidemiology Branch, Department of Health, 1987–2003.
  • 9. van der Klis KAM, Westenberg L, Chan A, et al. Teenage pregnancy: trends, characteristics and outcomes in South Australia and Australia. Aust N Z J Public Health 2002; 26: 125-131.
  • 10. National Centre for Classification in Health. ICD-10-AM. 4th ed. Vol 5. Pregnancy, childbirth and the puerperium. [Australian Coding Standards. 1511 Termination of Pregnancy, 1513 Induction, 1518 Duration of pregnancy.] Sydney: NCCH, July 2004.
  • 11. Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. Audit of ICD-9-CM Coded Clinical Data 1994/1995, final report and addenda. Adelaide: South Australian Health Commission, 1997.
  • 12. Australian Government Health Insurance Commission. Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) item statistics reports. Available at: http://www.hic.gov.au/statistics/dyn_mbs/forms/mbs_tab4.shtml (accessed Apr 2005).
  • 13. Parliament of Australia. Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee. Examination of additional estimates 2000–2001. Additional information received. Vol. 2. Health and Aged Care Portfolio. May 2001. Question E01000103: Medicare statistics on abortion (pp 157–166). Available at: http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/clac_ctte/estimates/add_0001/ha_may01.pdf (accessed Apr 2005).
  • 14. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Population by age and sex, Australian States and Territories. Time series spreadsheet. Canberra: ABS, 2003. (ABS Cat. No. 3201.0.)
  • 15. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Births Australia 2001. Canberra: ABS, 2002. (ABS Cat. No. 3301.0.)
  • 16. Statistics New Zealand. Population monitor. 2004. Available at: http://www.stats.govt.nz/domino/external/web/prod_serv.nsf/htmldocs/Population+Monitor (accessed Mar 2005).
  • 17. Adelson PL, Frommer MS, Weisberg E. A survey of women seeking termination of pregnancy in New South Wales. Med J Aust 1995; 163: 419-422.
  • 18. Nickson C, Smith AMA, Shelley JM. Intention to claim a Medicare rebate among women receiving private Victorian pregnancy termination services. Aust N Z J Public Health 2004; 28: 120-123.
  • 19. Pratt A, Biggs A, Buckmaster L. How many abortions are there in Australia? A discussion of abortion statistics, their limitations, and options for improved statistical collection. Research brief. Canberra: Department of Parliamentary Services, Parliament of Australia, 14 February 2005, No. 9, 2004–05.
  • 20. Laws PJ, Sullivan EA. Australia’s mothers and babies 2002. Sydney: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare National Perinatal Statistics Unit, 2004. (Perinatal Statistics Series No. 15.)
  • 21. Reporting under the Health Regulation (Maternal Health Information) Act 1998. Abortions 1999/2000. Canberra: Department of Health and Community Care, 2000.

Author

remove_circle_outline Delete Author
add_circle_outline Add Author

Comment
Do you have any competing interests to declare? *

I/we agree to assign copyright to the Medical Journal of Australia and agree to the Conditions of publication *
I/we agree to the Terms of use of the Medical Journal of Australia *
Email me when people comment on this article