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Latest UK Abortion Statistics 2019

Introduction

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 2019

Abortion statistics for England and Wales released on 11th June 2020 by the Department for Health are at a record high, with 209,519 total abortions.

The Department of Health statistics can be found by clicking here:

Department of Health UK Abortion Statistics - 2019

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.

UK key statistics

  • There was a total of 209,519 abortions in 2019, including non-residents. For women resident in England and Wales there were 207,384 abortions. This is an overall increase of 6,776 from 200,608 abortions in 2018 and the highest number recorded
  • 40.4% of women undergoing abortions had had one or more previous abortions
  • There were 1,337 abortions to girls aged under 16 - an increase of 5.52% from 1,267 in 2018
  • Of these, 391 were to girls aged under 15
  • There were also 738 to women aged 45 or over
  • There were 3,183 disability-selective abortions in 2019
    • 656 of these were for Down’s syndrome
    • 17 of these were for cleft/lip palate, 3 took place after 24 weeks
  • There were a total of 3,323 abortions carried out at 20-week gestation and over
  • There were a total of 279 late term abortions (24-week gestation and over)
  • 126 "selective termination" procedures were performed, where a twin, triplet or more were aborted in the womb. This is a 75% increase compared to 2011 when there were 72 twin terminations
  • 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 153,601, this represents 74% of abortions and a 255% increase in the numbers performed by abortion providers last 20 years
  • 73% of abortions were medical abortions
  • 27% of abortions were surgical abortions
  • Complications were reported in 337 out of 107,384 cases in 2019, a rate of one in every 625 abortions

Abortion numbers by grounds:

  • 98% (actual number 202,975) abortions were performed under ground C
  • 0.5% (actual number 1,045) abortions were performed under ground D
  • 2% (actual number 3,183) abortions were performed under ground E
  • 0.09% (actual number 181) 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 275 ground E abortions at 24 weeks and over. (2.15)

Gestation period:

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 teh child would be born disabled. There were 279 such abortions in 2019. (2.21)

Method of abortion:

For abortions at 22 weeks and over, feticide (an abortion is a procedure to end a pregnancy - feticide is the destruction of a fetus in the uterus) is recommended by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, prior to the evacuation of the uterus, to stop the fetal heart. In 2019, of the 1,717 abortions performed at 22 weeks and over, 55% were reported as preceded by a feticide and a further 41% were performed by a method whereby the fetal heart is stopped as part of the procedure. (2.31)

Selective terminations:

In 2019, there were 126 abortions which were selective terminations. This is were 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:

Ground A:

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))

Ground B:

That the termination is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman (section 1(1)(b))

Ground C:

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))

Ground D:

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))

Ground E:

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))

Ground F:

To save the life of the pregnant woman (section 1(4))

Ground G:

To prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman (section 1(4))