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Latest Spanish abortion figures show abortion rate much lower than England and Wales

There were almost 100,000 abortions in Spain in 2019 according to the latest figures from the Spanish Ministry of Health.

The figures, released in December last year, reveal that in 211 abortion centres across the country in 2019, 99,149 abortions took place. This is the highest number of abortions in a single year since 2013, when there were 108,690 abortions.

Abortion was made legal in Spain in 1985 and since then there have been a reported 2,482,750 abortions in the country. The official figures for 2020 have not yet been released but unless there is a dramatic reduction in abortion numbers for 2020, the total number of abortions since 1985 will have surpassed 2.5 million.

Abortion rate in Spain much lower than England and Wales

Spanish abortion law includes a three-day cooling-off period to ensure that a women considering an abortion has had enough time to consider all of the options available to her. The legislation also includes a 14-week time limit for most abortions. Abortion is then allowed up to 22 weeks gestation in cases where there is “serious risks to life or health of the mother or fetus” and after 22 weeks if “fetal anomalies incompatible with life are detected” or if “an extremely serious and incurable disease is detected within the fetus at the time of diagnosis and is confirmed by a clinical committee”. 

In England and Wales, the current abortion law does not provide a cooling-off period and 98% of abortions are performed under the provision in the law which allows abortion on mental health grounds. Abortions under this provision have a time limit of 24 weeks. Abortion is available up to birth when the baby has a disability and on other limited grounds.

In England and Wales the abortion rate has been consistently higher than in Spain. 

In 2019, the age-standardised abortion rate in England and Wales was 18.0 per 1,000 resident women aged 15-44. In Spain the abortion rate was much lower than England and Wales, at 11.53 per 1,000 women aged 15-44 in 2019.

Polling from Savanta ComRes shows that 79% of the general population in England, Wales and Scotland support the introduction of a five-day cooling-off period to ensure that a women considering an abortion has had enough time to consider all of the options available to her. The polling also shows that 60% of the general population and 70% of women believe that the current 24-week gestational limit for abortion should be reduced.

Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said: “The prevalence of abortion in Spain is a national tragedy, as it is in the UK and indeed every other country where abortion occurs”. 

“Spain’s abortion rate is considerably lower than the abortion rate in England and Wales. The Spanish law includes a three-day consideration period and a fourteen-week limit for most abortions. These additional safeguards in the law in Spain are likely playing some part in their lower abortion rate and fewer lives being lost to abortion in the country”. 

“Polling shows that the British public supports introducing more safeguards to abortion legislation to England, Wales and Scotland. Strong majorities support introducing a cooling-off period and lowering the current twenty-four week time limit”.

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