Abortion statistics show increase in abortions to older women, mothers, and those in relationships
• Over past decade, abortion rates among younger age groups has decreased, but increased among over 30s.
• Increase in proportion of women having abortions who are with a partner or already married, from 48% in 2005 to 70% in 2015.
• Majority (54%) of women ending a pregnancy were already mothers.
• Barriers to contraceptive services and misleading warnings about fertility may contribute to increasing abortion rate among older women.
Statistics released today by the Department of Health show that the abortion rate in England and Wales is stable. Of those having terminations, an increasing proportion were in a relationship, and the abortion rate among older age groups continues to increase.
The last decade has seen a considerable rise in the proportion of women having terminations who are either in a relationships or married. In 2015, 70% of those ending a pregnancy were stated as being married or with a partner, compared with 48% in 2005. In 2014, the figure was 68%. The average age of motherhood is the highest on record, with many women postponing starting a family due to financial concerns.
Since 2005, abortion rates have fallen among all age groups under 30 but increased in those 30 and over. There are concerns that older women are finding it increasingly difficult to access contraception, with some services restricted to younger women, in particular free emergency contraception.
Widespread warnings about the impact of age on fertility may also be contributing to rising abortion rates among older women, as campaigns and stories about the difficulties conceiving later in life have a significant impact on women’s perception of their own fertility and therefore their use of contraception. Of the women attending bpas clinics for unplanned pregnancy advice, those aged over-30 were less likely to have been using a method of contraception when they conceived than those aged under-30. Increasingly prevalent infertility warnings can cause many older women to underestimate their chance of conceiving.
More than half (54%) of women ending a pregnancy in 2015 were already mothers, compared with 47% of women in 2005. bpas regularly sees women experiencing unplanned pregnancies in the period after giving birth due to difficulties accessing contraception in the post-natal period, including a lack of information about which methods are suitable to use while breastfeeding and when fertility returns after childbirth.
Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said:
“The proportion of women having abortions who are in partnerships or married has increased markedly over the last decade, and more than half of women having abortions are already mothers. The decision to start or expand a family is seen as a significant one, and many people when faced with an unplanned pregnancy are very clear about the kind of environment and circumstances in which they think it is appropriate to have a child.
“Ultimately unplanned pregnancy is a fact of life. Contraception fails and sometimes we fail to use it properly. It remains extremely important that women of all reproductive ages have access to high quality contraceptive services that meet their needs at every life stage. Many women rely on condoms as their main form of contraception, and need swift access to the morning after pill when that method lets them down. Bpas is concerned about barriers to emergency contraception – and in particular the high price women are charged when obtained from a pharmacy. We know this can put women off obtaining it when an accident has happened, particularly if they perceive their risk to be low.
“There have been increasing calls in recent years around ‘educating’ women on the risks of waiting to start a family and growing emphasis on the problems women may face when trying to conceive. We must keep these risks in perspective, as bpas sees many women experiencing unwanted pregnancy after underestimating their ability to get pregnant – because of their age, irregular periods, or a previous STI. We need to ensure women have access to good, evidence-based information on fertility that gives them the knowledge they need to make the reproductive decisions that are right for them across their lifetimes.”
Department of Health, Abortion Statistics, England and Wales: 2015, can be found online here.
For more information please contact the bpas press office on 0207 061 3377 or 07788 725185 or email email@example.com
bpas is a charity which sees more than 70,000 women a year and provides reproductive healthcare services including pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management and contraception, at clinics across the UK. It supports and advocates for reproductive choice. More information can be found at bpas.org.