Abortion rate in Scotland hits five-year high

The abortion rate in Scotland is at its highest level for five years.

Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell. Scotland's abortion rate has hit a five-year high at the same time as a referendum was held to legalise the practice in Ireland

A total of 12,212 pregnancies were terminated last year, up 106 on 2016.

The figures mean there was a rate of 11.8 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 in 2017.

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The official figures show following the legal change on 27 October last year allowing women to take medication to end pregnancies in their own home, 58 women in Scotland took up the option.

The majority of these women, who fulfiled the criteria to take the drug misoprostol at home as the second stage in an medical abortion, were treated in NHS Lothian.

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) Scotland is challenging the legislation change at the Court of Session.

Statistics show termination rates in the most deprived areas remain almost double those in the most affluent neighbourhoods at 16.2 per 1,000 women aged 15-44, compared to 8.2.

Girls under 16 had the lowest rate of abortions for the fourth year running at 1.3 per 1,000 women aged 13-15.

Women aged 20-24 accounted for more terminations than any other age group at 28.6 per cent, but rates for all women under 24 fell in 2017 while those for older age groups increased.

Across Scotland, the target for 70 per cent of women requiring abortions to have the procedure, while less than nine weeks pregnant was exceeded at 72.1 per cent.

However, in remote rural areas the number meeting this target fell to 66.5 per cent from 69.9 per cent in 2016, with the report stating women in these areas “remain at a disadvantage”.

SPUC chief executive John Deighan said the figures were “deeply alarming”.

Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell said: “It is encouraging to see termination rates in under-16s reducing by 12.4 per cent in the last year and that the overall rate has fallen by almost 10 per cent in the last decade.

“We continue to work closely with NHS Boards and councils to reduce numbers of unintended pregnancies.

“Our Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Framework focuses on an increase in availability of longer acting reversible contraception, targeted sexual health interventions and the increased availability of sexual health services.”