Scottish NHS abortions at seven-year low

Abortion numbers have reached a seven-year low, according to NHS figures.

Abortions rates remain highest among younger women. Picture: Cate Gillon
Abortions rates remain highest among younger women. Picture: Cate Gillon

• Abortion rates in Scotland fall to seven-year low, new figures reveal

• Higher proportion of early terminations compared to last year

• Rate of terminations remains highest in younger women

But the number of repeat abortions has continued to rise with nearly a third of women who have had an abortion terminating more than one child compared with around a quarter a decade ago, according to NHS Scotland’s information services division.

Women aged 16-24 had the most abortions last year, and there were twice as many abortions in poor areas than rich areas.

Early abortions and pregnancies terminated by medical rather than surgical methods are on the rise.

For the past four years there has been a fall in the number and rate of abortions, with 12,447 in 2012 compared with 13,904 in 2008, representing 12 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 and down from 13.3 in 2008.

The NHS report on the figures states: “This fall is a change to the overall pattern of increase since the implementation of the 1967 Abortion Act, although small dips for short periods have been observed before.

“Birth rates also peaked in 2008 but whereas there has been a 9.5 per cent fall in abortion rates between 2008 and 2012, there has only been a 5.2 per cent fall in live birth rates over this period.

“Although there has been a recent marked reduction in abortions in younger women, the rate of terminations in 2012 is still highest in this group, at 17.8 per 1,000 aged 16-19 and 21.1 per 1,000 in those aged 20-24.

“Lower rates are seen in the older age groups: women aged 25-29 (15.5 per 1,000); aged 30-34 (11.2 per 1,000); aged 35-39 (6.8 per 1,000) and in women aged 40 and over (2.5 per 1,000).

“The proportion of early terminations has been rising steadily in recent years, with 69.8 per cent of all terminations performed at less than nine weeks in 2012, compared to 62.2 per cent in 2009. There has also been a sustained increase in the use of medical methods compared to surgical terminations.

“In 2012 the rate of abortions continues to show a clear link with the level of deprivation. In areas of high deprivation the rate is 16.1 per 1,000, nearly double the rate of 8.6 per 1,000 for the least deprived areas of Scotland.

“Approaching a third (30.7 per cent) of the 12,447 women having a termination in 2012 had a previous termination. The proportion of women having had a previous termination varies across mainland NHS boards from 26.9 per cent in the NHS Fife to 36.8% in NHS Tayside. The island boards, Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles, recorded the lowest proportion at 20.6 per cent.”

The vast majority (11,761 or 94.5 per cent) of terminations were carried out on the grounds that continuing pregnancy would risk “injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman”.

There were 159 terminations due to substantial risk of physical or mental abnormalities in the child, of which 30 were for Down’s syndrome, 15 for anencephaly, 13 for musculoskeletal conditions and 12 for other chromosomal conditions.

A&E target times

One in 10 patients in accident and emergency units were not treated within the target time in January, new figures reveal.

Across Scotland, 89.7 per cent of patients were either admitted or transferred for treatment, or discharged from hospital, within four hours of arriving at A&E in the first month of the year, official statistics show.

In the same month in NHS Lanarkshire, 83.5 per cent of patients in accident and emergency were dealt with within four hours.

Health Secretary Alex Neil conceded that “pressure on our A&E departments is a pressing issue”.

The “busy winter” and the demands of an ageing population meant an increase in admissions to A&E, he said.

But the figures show an improvement in February and March, with an average 91.9% of A&E patients across Scotland dealt with inside the target time for both months.

There has also been a big drop in the number of A&E patients waiting 12 hours or more, falling from 323 in December to 92 in March.


• {|Abortions in Scotland soar to record high with 38 performed every day|May 27, 2008)