The rate of abortion is at its lowest level for 16 years. There has been a notable drop in the number of teenagers experiencing unwanted pregnancy, which may reflect continuing improvements in access to contraception for young people. In older age groups the fall may indicate that women are better able to avoid unplanned pregnancy in the first place, but women may also be making different choices when faced with such a pregnancy.
The statistics also show the continuing rise in the proportion of women having abortions who are already mothers (52%). The majority of women ending pregnancies are in relationships (66%) The rate of "repeat" abortion has risen by 1 percentage point, in keeping with trends in other developed countries such as France and Sweden. This is to be expected as more women delay motherhood during their highly fertile 20s, when contraception is more likely to let them down. Women expect to control both the timing and size of their families, and may be exposed to unwanted pregnancy more than one during a 30-year reproductive life span.
bpas is concerned to see the first fall in the proportion of abortions carried out before 10 weeks. This is surprising given improvements in early pregnancy testing and access to Early Medical Abortion which can be carried out at some of the earliest gestations. This development needs monitoring to ensure that women are not experiencing delays once they have presented to healthcare services.
bpas Chief Executive Ann Furedi said
‘Abortion is fact of life and there is no ‘right number’ of abortions. What matters is that every woman with an unplanned pregnancy is able to make the choice that is right for her and access the care that she needs.
‘These statistics confirm that women who have abortions do not fit the stereotype of ‘the feckless teenager’. Women of all ages and from all walks of life experience unplanned pregnancy. BPAS launched the ‘No More Names’ campaign last year to highlight precisely this point – that women who have abortions are our mothers, daughters, sisters and friends.’