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Scotland sees highest abortions on record in 2022

Scotland has experienced the highest number of abortions on record in 2022 with an almost 20% increase in a single year, according to official figures.

Abortion statistics released by Public Health Scotland reveal that there were 16,596 abortions in Scotland in 2022, 2,659 more than in 2021 or a 19.08% increase from 13,937 in the previous year. 

The overall abortion rate per thousand women aged 15-44 also increased from 13.4 per thousand in 2021 to 16.1 per thousand in 2022, representing a 19.26% increase.

Total number of abortions in Scotland
Total number of abortions in Scotland

These numbers have come at the same time as the First Minister of Scotland, Humza Yousaf, has committed to making abortion legal up to birth for any reason by removing abortion from the criminal law. This would make abortion on the grounds of the sex of the child – sex-selective abortion – legal.

When New Zealand introduced a similar change in law, the country saw a 43% increase in abortions. There is concern that something similar will happen if Scotland follows the same path.

Polling shows that only 1% of women in Great Britain wanted the time limit to be extended to more than 24 weeks and 1% wanted it to be increased right through to birth, in contrast to 70% of women who favoured a reduction in time limits.

Repeat abortions and 18-20 weeks gestation abortions increase

In addition to the massive increase in abortions, the figures show that repeat abortions increased by almost 19% from 5,428 in 2021 to 6,443 in 2022. A repeat abortion occurs when a woman has previously had one or more abortions in the past.

The repeat abortion rate has increased from 3.5 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 in 2013 to 6.2 in 2022.

Repeat abortions accounted for 38.82% of all abortions in Scotland.

Total repeat abortions in Scotland
Total repeat abortions in Scotland

For women and girls aged 16-19, abortions increased by 28.31% to 1,899 in 2022, up from 1,480 the previous year.

There was also a 49.41% rise in abortions between 18 and 20 weeks gestation from 85 in 2021 to 127 in 2022.

The number of abortions where Ground E, the ground under which disability-selective abortions are legal, was listed as one of the grounds for the abortion taking place, also rose from 221 in 2021 to 273 in 2022. This represents a 23.53% increase from 2021.

In 2021, 32 abortions took place where an unborn baby was thought to have Down’s syndrome, jumping to 59 in 2022, an increase of almost 85%.

Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said “It is a great tragedy that 16,596 lives were lost to abortion in Scotland last year, the highest number on record”.

“Every one of these abortions represents a failure of our society to protect the lives of babies in the womb and a failure to offer full support to women with unplanned pregnancies”.

“We are calling on the Scottish Government to scrap plans to introduce abortion up to birth and instead bring forward sensible new restrictions along with increased support for women with unplanned pregnancies”. 

“Polling shows these changes are backed by the public in Scotland and this would ensure we were working together as a society to reduce the tragic number of lives that are lost to abortion each year”.

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