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Abortions continue to rise at alarming rate in Britain – highest on record

2021 saw the highest ever number of abortions recorded for women resident in England and Wales. Annual national statistics released by the British Department of Health and Social Care today revealed that there were 214,256 abortions last year across Britain – the highest number since the Abortion Act was introduced in 1967. 

Previously, 2020 had seen the highest abortion rate on record — with 209,917 abortions carried out for British women that year: however, an additional 4,339 abortions took place in 2021, evidence that the abortion rate is spiralling. 

The new figures represent the continuation of an alarming rise in the British abortion rate, with abortions increasing steadily across England and Wales since 2014, sparking concern from pro-life organisations. With just 625,000 births in England and Wales in 2021, 1 in every 4 babies are now aborted. 

Figure 1: number of abortions, England and Wales, 2011 to 2021


The latest abortion figures revealed that 206 women travelled from Ireland to Britain to obtain abortions – and 59 out of the 206 babies aborted by Irish women in England or Wales had Down syndrome. In Britain, abortion for a baby with a disability is permitted through all nine months gestation.

The figures also revealed that 161 babies with mothers from Northern Ireland were killed by abortion in Britain. The latest abortion statistics for Northern Ireland showed that 2,794 babies were aborted from 31 March 2020 to 31 January 2022 — meaning approximately 30 babies are aborted per week in the region.

The age standardised abortion rate for British residents is 18.6 per 1,000 women, the highest rate since the Abortion Act was introduced, the Department of Health said today.

As has been the long-term trend in Britain, the vast majority of abortions took place on mental health grounds, rather than being due to physical health.

In 2021, 98.0% of abortions (209,939) were performed under ground C – an abortion permitted up to 24 weeks for the reason that the ’continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman’ – with 99.9% of these abortions reported as being performed because of a risk of the woman’s mental health. 

3,3740 abortions were carried out under ground E, which permits abortion for ‘physical or mental abnormalities’ including Down syndrome, club foot and cleft palette. 836 abortions were performed under ground D – which permits abortion for the reason that the baby would cause harm to the mental or physical health of a woman’s existing children, while 111 abortions took place on other grounds.

The figures also revealed that the abortion rate for women aged under 18 has continued to decrease since 2011 while the rate has remained steady for women aged 35 or over. The largest increase in abortion rates by age are among women aged 30 to 34, according to the statistics; there has been an increase in the rates for all ages 22 and above over the last decade, according to the Department.

Breaking down the figures, 82% of those who had abortions in Britain last year said their marital status was single – a proportion that has remained roughly constant for the last ten years. 49% of women who had abortions provided a marital status as single with a partner.

Ethnicity was recorded on 91% of forms received in 2021, revealing that 78% of the women who gave their ethnicity were white; 9% Asian; 7% Black; 5% as Mixed, and 1% as other.

In 2021, 21% of abortions were performed in NHS hospitals, while clinics performed 77% of the abortions that took place, making a total of 99% of abortions funded by the NHS. The remaining 1% were privately funded.

The statistics show that there has been a 93% decrease in the number of Irish women travelling to Britain for abortions since 2018 – with the numbers replaced by the rocketing abortion rate in Ireland since the repeal of the eighth amendment. 6,577 abortions took place in Ireland in 2020 – with 2021’s figures due to be released at the end of June.

Commenting on today’s figures, Niamh Ui Bhriain of The Life Institute said that the sharp rise in the number of Irish babies aborted because they had Down Syndrome was a horrendous reflection of how Irish society had changed for the worse since repeal of the 8th. 

“It’s also just devastating to see these numbers increase year on year,” she said.

“More than 1 in every 4 babies are now aborted in England and Wales: it’s simply terrifying. I remember when we highlighted this trend during the abortion referendum in 2018 in Ireland, and Yes campaigners denied this reality, denied the actual rising numbers which showed that 1 in every 5 babeis were being aborted in Britain at that time. What have they to say now that it’s 1 in every 4 babies? It’s an appalling indictment of a culture where life is disposable and throwaway. Women and babies deserve better than this.

“The spiralling abortion rate should prompt Britain – and this country – to take a long hard look at what kind of a society their laws have shaped”.

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