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Women's experiences

Abortion rise reflects increased choices for women
Press release from BPAS

Figures issued today by the Office for National Statistics, suggest that British women in the 21st century increasingly see abortion as a solution to unplanned, unwanted pregnancy.

Commenting on the publication of the abortion statistics for the year 2000, BPAS, Britain’s largest provider of abortion services, observed that the slow but steady rise in the proportion of conceptions terminated by abortion is likely to continue.

There were 185,375 legal abortions carried out in England and Wales in 2000, a rise of 2,125 (1.2 per cent) compared with 1999. The abortion rate for women resident in England and Wales in 2000 was 16.94 abortions per 1000 women aged 15-44, 0.9 per cent higher than in 1999 when the rate was 16.79 abortions per 1000 women.

Abortion rates increased for women aged under 34 and decreased for woman aged 35 and over, in 2000. The rate increased by 0.2 per cent for women under 20, by 2.4 per cent for women in their twenties and by 0.4 per cent for women aged 30-34. The rate decreased by 1.4 per cent in the 35-44 age-group.

The largest increase was for women in their twenties, which is consistent with the most recently published conception statistics. In 1999, more than a quarter (28.5 per cent) of pregnant women aged 20-24 had abortions compared to 22.3 per cent of women in their early twenties in 1990. Overall in 1999, 22.6 per cent of conceptions were aborted compared with 19.9 per cent in 1990.

This increase in the proportion of women opting to end unplanned pregnancies is believed to be due to several factors:

  • An increasing number of women are choosing to remain childless – almost one woman in five is now childless at 40.
  • Women who do want children, want fewer of them and want them later in life – most women are at least 29 when they have their first child.
  • Marriage is decreasing in popularity and unmarried couples are more likely than married couples to end an unplanned pregnancy – even if they are living together.
  • Almost 70 per cent of women have jobs – professional women are reluctant to take breaks that could hinder their careers and more working class families are dependent on women’s wages.

BPAS director of communications, Ann Furedi, said:

‘Women today want to plan their families and, when contraception fails, they are prepared to use abortion to get back in control of their lives. Motherhood is just one among many options open to women and it is not surprising that younger women want to prioritise other things. We should stop seeing abortion as a problem and start seeing it as a legitimate and sensible solution to the problem of unwanted pregnancy.

Most of the 48,000 women who attend BPAS clinics each year want an abortion so they can get back in control of their lives. An unplanned pregnancy is a problem that they want to put behind them, we can help them to do that.’

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