There were around 5,000 fewer abortions in 2016 than a decade ago, according to latest figures from South Australia and Western Australia showing a 6% drop in terminations.*

This still puts the annual number of abortions at 72,000-75,000, down on 2005 estimates of around 80,000 abortions a year.* (These figures do not include the use of the morning-after pill which may or may not have an abortifacient effect, depending on when it’s administered).

While the decrease is welcomed news, the figures highlight the lack of national data on the number of abortions and why women have them. South Australia and Western Australia are the only states gathering information on abortions, and South Australia is the only State that records why.

Recent reports from Queensland and Western Australia show that dozens of children are born alive after an abortion, only to die after struggling to breathe.

Children in Western Australia have been aborted post 20 weeks for minor suspected disabilities such as cleft palate, Down syndrome and arm and hand problems despite late term abortion only being legal for serious disabilities threatening the mother or child’s life.

Latest South Australian figures also show 6.9% of women experience complications after chemical abortions using RU486, most requiring surgical abortions to remove the baby.

The rate of abortion per 1000 women aged 15-44 has fallen steadily in the past decade from around 17 in WA and 15 in SA, to around 15.1 and 13.5 respectively.

There were 4,439 abortions in South Australia in 2015, down 5.8% from the 4,715 in 2005, while WA figures of 7,834 in 2016 were down 6% on the 2006 figure of 8,336.

South Australian Abortions

Year

Number of abortions

Abortion rate per 1000 women 15-44

2005

4,715

15.3

2006

4,889

15.5

2007

4,885

15.4

2008

5,101

16

2009

5,057

15.6

2010

5,048

15.5

2011

5,010

15.5

2012

4,765

14.7

2013

4,681

14.4

2014

4,650

13.8

2015

4,439

13.5

Western Australian abortions

Year

Number of abortions

Abortion rate per 1000 women 15-44

2006

8,336

19.1

2007

8,424

19

2008

8,668

19

2009

8,885

18.8

2010

8,415

17.5

2011

8,683

17.4

2012

8,429

16.4

2013

8,467

16.2

2014

8,464

16.1

2015

8,105

15.6

2016

7,834

15.1

Abortions peaked in Western Australia in 2009 when there were 8,885, while in South Australia, a record 5,679 children were aborted in 1999.

In both States, around 60% of abortions involve women under 30; around 80% under 35.

Those aged 20-24 are the most likely to have an abortion, representing 29% of all abortions in WA and 26.6% in South Australia, followed by those aged 25-29.

South Australian figures show about one in four women will have an abortion, and 36.6% of women had had a previous abortion. Ninety-two women (2.1%) had had 4 or more previous abortions.

92% of abortions were during the first trimester.

In Western Australia, 8% or 639 abortions were post 20 weeks.

In South Australia, March, July and September are the highest months for abortions, while January and February are the lowest.

Teen abortions represent 8% and 9% of abortions in WA and SA respectively.

Thirty-one South Australian girls 15 and under had abortions in 2015, the youngest was 13.

The 2015 figures show 95.6% of all abortions in South Australia were related to the mental health of the mother.

Reported reasons for termination

South Australia, 2015.

Reason Number of abortions Percentage
Mental health of woman 4,244 95.6%
Serious handicap of the fetus 169 3.8%
Specified medical condition 25 0.6%
Sexual assault 0.0%


Globally, there were 56 million abortions per year from 2010-2014, up six million on 1990-1994.*
 

The Guttmacher Institute attributes the increase to population growth.

It notes that while overall abortion figures have increased, the abortion rate per 1000 women of childbearing age has dropped from 40 to 35 in the past two decades.

Our national abortion rate of around 14, based on South Australia and Western Australia, is comparable to New Zealand (14.2) and Canada (14.7), higher than the US (13);  twice that of Germany (7.0); and significantly higher than Finland (8.2) and Norway (11.7).


References

*1. Induced Abortions in Western Australia 2010-2012, 4th report of the Abortion Notification System, http://ww2.health.wa.gov.au/~/media/Files/Corporate/Reports%20and%20publications/Abortion/PDF/Abortion_Report_2010-12.ashx; Questions on Notice by Nick Goiran to the Health Minister, WA Legislative Council, Hansard, April 18, 2014, p 2209; March 2015, p 2011; May 2016, p2504b. South Australian Legislative Assembly, May 18, 2017, South Australian Abortion Reporting Committee 2015. Australian Bureau of Statistics.

*2. 90,000 annual abortions was the estimate given by Senator Patterson in her response to Senator Boswell’s question in 2005. See Australia Senate, 2005 debates, vol s14, P69. A parliamentary review that same year noted the range of 70,000-100,000 abortions per year, but determined it was impossible to get an accurate count of abortions . See Department of Parliamentary Services, How Many Abortions are There in Australia? ,   http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22library%2Fprspub%2FCF7F6%22 The Australian Medical Journal reported there were an estimated 84,460 abortions in 2003, Annabelle Chan and C. Sage,
https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2005/182/9/estimating-australias-abortion-rates-1985-2003

*3. Guttmacher Institute, https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/induced-abortion-worldwide

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