The latest statistics for abortion in England and Wales (2013) have been released today and can be viewed here on the Gov.UK website. Here's a summary.
For women resident in England and Wales, in 2013:
- The total number of abortions was 185,331
- The abortion rate (for ages 15-44) was 15.9 per 1000 women, 0.8% lower than last year's abortion rate, and 4.7% lower than in 2003
- The abortion rate was highest for women aged 22
- The under-16 and under-18 abortion rates are both lower than last year, and than in 2003
- 37% of women having an abortion had had one or more previous abortions
- 53% of women having abortions had one or more previous pregnancies that resulted in a live birth or a still birth
- 91% of abortions were carried out at under 13 weeks gestation
- In 2013, there were 5,469 abortions for non-residents carried out in England and Wales. The 2013 total is the lowest in any year since 1969
So those are the numbers but what do they tell us?
Well, first of all, the abortion rate is the lowest it's been for 16 years, the 2013 stats show a continued decrease. The same is true for the rate of abortion for under 18s - this has gone down from 18.2 per 1000 women to 11.7 per 1000 women in the last ten years. This drop reflects the reduced rate of teenage conceptions in general and is likely a result of young people's increased access to contraception. The rate of women accessing abortion early on in pregnancy is a positive sign that most are able to have their pregnancy confirmed early and access abortion when it is safest.
When asked, people often assume abortion rates will be highest for teenagers, when in fact, the most common age to have an abortion was 22, and there was a slight increase in the abortion rate for women aged 25-29. Bpas suggests that that this may well reflect the increasing desire to have children later (the average age for first time motherhood in the UK is now over 28). Over half of women accessing abortion are already mothers.
In 2013, approximately 5500 abortions were performed in England and Wales for non-resident women. The majority of these women (67% and 15%) were from Ireland and Northern Ireland respectively. This shows a continuing decline in the numbers of non-resident women accessing abortion in England and Wales. The FPA suggests that this could be due to under-reporting, or women travelling to other countries for the procedure. We also suggested last year that these women may well be (illegally) finding abortion medication online, rather than travelling for the procedure, which can be very expensive.
We join the FPA in calling for Northern Irish women's right to free, safe, legal abortion in line with women in other parts of the UK, and with bpas that, "we should stop politicising abortion and accept that it is a standard part of women's healthcare."