Today, ISD Scotland published Scottish abortion figures for 2018. The report can be found here.
In response, Katherine O’Brien, bpas spokesperson, said:
“Termination rates in Scotland have been gradually increasing since 2014, and in 2018 the rate continued to rise slightly from 12.1 to 12.9 terminations per 1,000 women of childbearing age. However, this figure is not markedly higher than the rate in 2009, the earliest year for which comparable data is available, which was 12.4, and the abortion rate in Scotland remains significantly lower than that in England and Wales, which was 16.7 in 2017.
“Overall, we are seeing increases in abortion rates among older women, while rates for younger women are falling. The rate of abortions for women aged-under 20 decreased last year and has declined by 49% between 2007 and 2018. Conversely, the most significant increases have been seen among the older age groups, with the abortion rate for women aged 30-34 and 35-39 increasing by 12.8% and 13.2% respectively over the last year. This may be reflective of difficulties accessing contraception, but we are also concerned that constant warnings about the impact of age on fertility are leading some older women to take chances with their contraception under the misconception that they are unlikely to conceive. We need to ensure that the reproductive healthcare needs of all women are met, and that the drive to decrease teenage pregnancies is not at the expense of their older counterparts.
“An increasing proportion of abortions are being performed for women who are already mothers. In 2018, 53.6% of women undergoing an abortion already had existing children, compared to 47.2% in 2009. Moreover, while the termination rate has been increasing, the general fertility rate has been falling fairly steadily over the last decade. The rate of live births declined by 9% between 2014 and 2018, while over the same period the termination rate increased by 14%. This may reflect that women and their partners are making different choices about the timing and size of their families within the context of ongoing political and economic uncertainty.
“We are pleased to see an increase in the proportion of women accessing terminations before 9 weeks, and the fact that around a third of women undergoing a medical abortion were able to self-administer the second abortion pill at home. Home use of abortion medication enables women to take the second tablet in the privacy and comfort of their own homes, reduces the number of appointments women must attend, and is recommended by the World Health Organisation. There is no evidence that it leads to an increase in the rate of abortions, but it can enable women to have abortions at an earlier gestation. We look forward to home use being available across all NHS Boards in Scotland as soon as possible.”
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Notes to Editors:
bpas is a charity which sees more than 80,000 women a year for 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.