Abortion and Age: When Do Women Have Abortions?

Abortion is something that is usually associated with young women. The abortion rate does tend to be higher in younger women, but it is a procedure that women may need throughout their reproductive lives. Some women do have abortions when they feel too young to become a mother, but others have to end a pregnancy later in their lives. In fact, the abortion rate in the UK has been dropping for younger women but increasing at older ages. What are the facts about the ages when women have abortions?

UK Abortion Statistics on Age

Women are most likely to have an abortion between the ages of 18 and 29, but the rate is dropping in the under 25s and rising in the over 25s. The overall abortion rate has been relatively steady over the last decade.

The abortion rate in England and Wales can be broken down by age as follows:

  • Overall abortion rate of 16.7 per 1000 women aged 16-44
  • Less than 1% of abortions are performed for girls under 16, most of whom were aged 15
  • 0.4% of abortions were performed over the age of 45
  • Abortion rates are dropping for women under 25, especially at the youngest ages
  • The abortion rate has halved in the under 16s and at ages 16-17 since 2007
  • The rate is now 10.3 per 1000 women aged 16-17
  • The rate has dropped from 32.6 in 2007 to 28.2 in 2017 for women aged 20-24
  • Women are most likely to have an abortion at age 20, when the abortion rate peaks at 29.1 per 1000
  • Abortion rates have increased slightly for women over 25
  • The rate increased from 21.8 in 2012 to 24.3 in 2017 for women aged 25-29
  • The rate increased from 15.1 in 2007 to 18.5 in 2017 for women aged 30-34

How Does Age Affect the Abortion Rate?

Women have abortions at all stages in their lives, from their teenage years right up until the menopause. Although the abortion rate is higher in younger women, it has dropped a lot in teenagers. Women are also more likely to have abortions at later ages.

The main differences between women who have abortions at different ages is in their reasons for doing so. Younger women are more likely to consider abortion because they don’t feel ready to become a parent, especially if they are still in education or at the beginning of their career. Meanwhile, older women have their own concerns about pregnancy. Some may already have families and feel unable to manage a new addition. Others may be focused on the careers that they have built or feel unable to cope with motherhood at this stage in their lives. Older women are also more likely to experience complications during pregnancy or to have medical reasons for considering an abortion.

Abortion is a complex subject. We shouldn’t assume that women only have abortions when they are young and single. Some women do have abortions in these circumstances, but others are older, or in a committed relationship, or are experiencing medical complications. Age can be a factor in the decision for some women, but a woman’s personal circumstances are usually more significant. Every woman is unique and she will have to make her own decision, based on these unique circumstances, no matter her age.

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