The abortion rate fell slightly in 2013 to 15.9 per 1,000 women, with continuing decreases in rates among women under 25 and marginal increases among women who are older. It is the lowest rate for 16 years.
The fall in rates for young women reflects the ongoing decline in teenage conceptions and better access to contraception services tailored for younger age groups. Abortion rates for women under 18 have fallen from 12.8 per 1,000 in 2012 to 11.7 in 2013.
The slight increase in abortion rates for women aged 25-29 (21.8 in 2012 to 22.6 in 2013) may reflect the ongoing trend towards women postponing motherhood until they feel in the position to become a parent. The average age of first time motherhood in the UK is now over 28, the highest in the developed world.
Among women in their 30s and 40s, unplanned and unwanted pregnancy may result from poorer access to contraception services for older women as well as the mistaken belief that their fertility is waning. Many of these women will have already completed their families. The proportion of women undergoing abortion who are already mothers continues to rise, from 47% in 2003 to 53% in 2013.
Neural tube defects (NTDS) such as spina bifida and anencephaly are prevalent as conditions under which Ground E abortions are carried out. bpas is saddened that the government continues to delay the mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid, which would markedly reduce the incidence of NTDs and the number of couples needing to make the difficult decision to end what is often a much wanted pregnancy.
Bpas chief executive Ann Furedi said:
“There is no right or wrong number of abortions, simply that any woman who needs an abortion is able to obtain one. One in three women will have an abortion, and these figures show clearly that women need good access to contraception and abortion services at every stage of their reproductive lifetimes. We should stop politicising abortion and accept that it is a standard part of women’s healthcare.
“Much effort has been put into improving contraception services for younger women, but women don’t stop having sex when they hit 25. We need to construct services that meet the needs of older women, often juggling jobs and childcare, who are time poor and need more straightforward access to their chosen contraception method.”
For more information please contact the bpas press office on 0207 061 3377 or 07788 725 185 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes for Editors
The 2013 Abortion Statistics for England and Wales can be accessed here
bpas supports reproductive choice and health by advocating and providing high quality services to prevent unwanted pregnancies with contraception or end them by abortion. We also offer a range of other reproductive health services through more than 50 centres throughout the UK, treating more than 60,000 women and men each year.