A record number of women in England and Wales had abortions last year, with an increase especially among women 30 and older.
A total of 209,917 abortions were reported in 2020, with a year-over-year increase from 207,384 in 2019. The largest increases in age-specific abortion rates were seen among women from 30 to 34 years old, going from 16.5 per 1,000 in 2010 to 21.9. in 2020.
Experts attribute the figures to the fact that women can seek abortion treatment at home during the pandemic and also to financial uncertainty, which means women have had to make “tough decisions.”
Clare Murphy, Managing Director of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said: “The increase in numbers is due to an increase in the number of women over 30 in need of abortion care, and may also reflect the fact that ‘With an early abortion at home becoming legal, women no longer need to seek help outside regulated providers.
She added: “But the pandemic has clearly had an impact on women’s pregnancy choices and that is reflected in the numbers. Faced with economic uncertainty, precarious employment and the need to juggle home schooling and work, women and their partners have made sometimes difficult decisions in the face of an unplanned pregnancy.
“It is not surprising to see the proportion of women who already have children seeking abortion increasing in this context as well as the increase in abortion among older women, which may also illustrate the problems of access. contraception during this period.
In March 2020, the UK and Welsh governments approved the home use of mifepristone, the first drug used in early medical abortion. This meant that early medical abortion care could be provided remotely for eligible people, via a virtual consultation.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said the latest data showed this new route had become “the norm, with 46% of all procedures in England being provided by telemedicine and 62% of all procedures in Wales”.
In April 2020, the RCOG urged the government and decentralized countries to introduce the necessary regulatory changes to allow the two early medical abortion drugs to be taken at home. They said it helped reduce the transmission of the coronavirus, led to a decrease in the average length of pregnancies at the time of treatment and reduced wait times.
Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said: “Throughout the pandemic, early medical abortion has been redesigned to embrace a new model of virtual care. This has helped reduce the transmission of the coronavirus, keep women and their families safe, and support the delivery of essential health care.
“The data released today shows not only that it has helped our efforts to deal with the pandemic, but has also brought significant benefits to women by increasing access and reducing wait times, allowing women to receive care earlier in their pregnancy. “
Under-18 abortion rates have declined over the past 10 years, from 16.5 per 1,000 women in 2010 to 6.9 per 1,000 in 2020. The decline since 2010 is particularly marked in the group. under-16s, where the rates fell from 3.9 per 1,000 women in 2010 to 1.2 per 1,000 women in 2020.