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England and Wales abortion rate is stable, more than half of women ending pregnancies are already mothers

The abortion rate for England and Wales was 15.9 per 1,000 women aged 15-44 in 2014. Rates fell slightly among all age groups under 25, and remained stable or rose marginally among women over 25.  56% of abortions in England and Wales were performed on women over the age of 25 in 2014.

More than half (54%) of women ending pregnancies had already given birth, up from 47% a decade ago.

The vast majority of abortions are performed at under 13 weeks (92% in 2014), with a continuing increase in the proportion carried out under 10 weeks. Access to Early Medical Abortion, where pills are taken to induce a miscarriage, has played an important role in the numbers of women able to access early procedures. A small number of women will need access to services after 20 weeks (2%) due to later detection of pregnancy, dramatic changes in personal circumstances, or because a problem has been diagnosed with a wanted pregnancy.

The repeat abortion rate remains stable, with 37% of all abortions provided to women who have had a previous procedure. This rate is in keeping with those in comparable developed countries such as France and Sweden. Given that women are fertile for more than 30 years, it is unsurprising that women may experience an unplanned pregnancy or a pregnancy they cannot carry to term on more than one occasion.

Much work has been done to improve contraceptive services for younger women, and it is important to ensure older women have the same access to convenient, high quality services. The British Pregnancy Advisory Services believes more in particular could be done to support women’s contraceptive needs in the postnatal period, as we regularly see women experiencing unwanted pregnancy in the period after giving birth.  

bpas chief executive Ann Furedi said:

“No form of contraception is 100% effective, and women will always need straightforward access to abortion services as a back-up if they are to plan their lives and families in the way they see fit. Having done so much to improve contraceptive services for younger women, we must also ensure the needs of older women are met.

“One in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime. It is a fundamental part of women’s reproductive healthcare, as these statistics demonstrate. It makes no sense that abortion remains within the criminal law in this country, and that women still the need authorisation of 2 doctors before they can end their own pregnancy. It also remains a travesty that in 2015, women from Northern Ireland are unable to access the care they need at home. The time really has come to decriminalise abortion across the UK and regulate it like every other women’s healthcare procedure.”

Ends

Department of Health, Abortion Statistics, England and Wales: 2014, can be found online here

For further comment please contact the bpas press office  on 0207 061 3377