Scotland abortion numbers second highest ever on record

Abortion statistics released by Public Health Scotland reveal that the number of abortions carried out in Scotland reached the second highest number on record last year. 

Official figures showed there were 13,583 terminations carried out in 2019 – the highest total since 2008 and an increase of 297 from 2018 when there were 13,286 abortions.

Almost half of medical terminations in 2019 involved self-administration of misoprostol in the home setting. This is the second stage of treatment for early medical terminations; the first drug (mifepristone) has been taken at the clinic. The figure rose from 29.9% in 2018 to 49.3% last year, and is likely to increase further when 2020 statistics are published due to a change in guidance allowing the self-administration of both mifepristone and misoprostol in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The repeat abortion rate for 2019 was 4.4 per 1,000 women ages 15-44, up from a rate of 3.5 per women aged 15-44 in 2010. In total, 34% of abortions in 2019 were repeat abortions.

The statistics also reveal 581 terminations for women over the age of 40 – the highest number in this age group since abortion became legal in 1967.

Last year, there was a rise in the number of young women having abortions, with 1834 abortions in those under 20, up from 1829 in 2018.

While the teenage pregnancy rate has fallen from 34 per 1000 women in 2014 to 30 per 1000 women in 2018, the proportion of teenage pregnancies that ended in termination between 1994 and 2018 increased from around a third (33.1%) to just under half (46.5%).

A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:

“Sadly, the number of abortions taking place in Scotland has reached the second highest number on record. Every one of these 13,583 abortions is a tragic loss of life. 

“Even worse, that number could climb even higher.

“A change of guidelines in 2018, which allows women to take the second set of abortion pills involved in a medical abortion out of clinical settings accounted for nearly 50% of medical abortions in 2019. This is up from nearly 30% in 2018, but is likely to further increase next year when 2020 statistics are published due to a change in guidance allowing ‘DIY’ home abortions in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Additionally, abortion activists continue to push for the removal of all safeguards in abortion law and want to see abortion available on demand, right up to the point of birth.

“Polling shows large majorities of women in the UK support changes to our abortion laws that would have a positive impact on lowering the number of abortions. 70% of women want the current time limit on abortion to be lowered and 91% of women want a ban on sex-selective abortion.

“We are calling on the Scottish Government to urgently bring forward sensible new restrictions and increased support for women with unplanned pregnancies. This would ensure we were working together as a society to reduce the tragic number of abortions that happen each year.”

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