When an abortion is performed in the UK the reason for it being procured is recorded by a Health Worker and the information kept by the Department of Health.
Abortion statistics for 2020
Abortion statistics for England and Wales released on 12th July 2021 by the Department for Health are at a record high, with 210,860 total abortions.
[Note: facilities are no longer named in the statistics. The 2020 statistics only refer to locations.]
13,815 abortions were recorded in Scotland in 2020. In total, 224,675 abortions were recorded in Great Britain in 2020. Assuming that there were 254 working days in 2020, the mean average abortions per working day in 2020 in GB was 885.
Globally, the World Health Organisation estimates that around 73 million babies are killed by abortion annually.
The Department of Health statistics can be found by clicking here:
The grounds are listed at the end of this article. The statistics are taken from the Department of Health’s publication for 2019, the most recent complete year available.
England and Wales key statistics
- There was a total of 210,860 abortions in 2020, including non-residents. For women resident in England and Wales there were 209,917 abortions. This is an overall increase of 2,533 from 207,384 abortions in 2019 and the highest number recorded
- 42.4% of women undergoing abortions had had one or more previous abortions
- There were 1,158 abortions to girls aged under 16 - an reduction of 13.4% from 1,337 in 2019
- Of these, 323 were to girls aged under 15
- There were also 884 to women aged 45 or over - an increase of 19.78%, from 738 in 2019
There were 3,083 disability-selective abortions in 2020
- 693 of these were for Down’s syndrome
- 35 of these were for cleft/lip palate, an increase of 105.9%, from 17 in 2019, 3 took place after 24 weeks
- There were a total of 2,748 abortions carried out at 20-week gestation and over
- There were a total of 236 late term abortions (24-week gestation and over)
- 65 "selective termination" procedures were performed, where a twin, triplet or more were aborted in the womb
- 99% of abortions are funded by The Department of Health. The number of abortions funded by the NHS performed by private abortion providers, such as bpas and Marie Stopes, reached a record high of 161,314 , this represents 77% of abortions and a 276% increase in the numbers performed by abortion providers last 20 years
- 85% of abortions were medical abortions
- 15% of abortions were surgical abortions
- Complications were reported in 247 out of 209,917 cases in 2020, a rate of one in every 850 abortions. The ONS itself records the statistics for complications are not reliable, saying, “Due to how complications are recorded, for terminations where either both or the second stage is administered at home, complications may be less likely to be recorded.”
Abortion numbers by grounds:
- 98.1% (actual number 205,930 ) abortions were performed under ground C
- 0.4% (actual number 776) abortions were performed under ground D
- 1.5% (actual number 3,083 ) abortions were performed under ground E
- 0.06% (actual number 128) abortions were performed under grounds A, B, F and G
Most of the overall increase in the number of abortions is the result of ground C abortions increasing. (2.11)
The vast majority (99.9%) of abortions carried out under ground C alone were reported as being performed because of a risk to the woman's mental health. (2.12)
There were 229 ground E abortions at 24 weeks and over. (2.15)
The legal limit for a woman having an abortion is 24 weeks gestation. Abortions may be performed after 24 weeks in certain circumstances, for example, if the mother's life is at risk or the child would be born disabled. There were 236 such abortions in 2020. (2.21)
Method of abortion:
From 30 March 2020, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care approved temporary measures in England to limit the transmission of COVID-19 by approving the use of both pills for early medical abortion at home, without the need to first attend a hospital or clinic. Similar measures were put in place by the Welsh Government’s Minister for Health and Social Services on 31 March 2020.
Since the temporary approval of both pills for early medical abortion without needing to first visit a hospital or clinic, the percentages of different methods used to administer abortions have changed (although it is worth noting the general increase in medical abortions over time. Taking both medications at home has become the most common procedure, accounting for 47% of all abortions during the period April to December 2020. At the same time, there has been a large increase in the percentage of medical abortion overall, accounting for 88% of abortions for the last three quarters (April to December) of 2020 compared to 77% of the first quarter (January to March) of 2020. This also compares to 74% for the last three quarters (April to December) of 2019.
In 2020, there were 65 abortions which were selective terminations. This is where pregnancies may result in more than one embryo being implanted in the womb. In such cases, the outcome of the pregnancy may be more successful if the number of fetuses is reduced. (2.33)
Statutory grounds for abortion
Under the Abortion Act 1967, a pregnancy may be lawfully terminated by a registered medical practitioner in approved premises, if two medical practitioners are of the opinion, formed in good faith, that the abortion is justified under one or more of grounds A to G:
That the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman greater than if the pregnancy were terminated (Abortion Act, 1967 as amended, section 1(1)(c))
That the termination is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman (section 1(1)(b))
That the pregnancy has NOT exceeded its 24th week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman (section 1(1)(a))
That the pregnancy has NOT exceeded its 24th week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of any existing child(ren) of the family of the pregnant woman (section 1(1)(a))
That there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped (section 1(1)(d))
To save the life of the pregnant woman (section 1(4))
To prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman (section 1(4))