The mental health of the pregnant mother remains the single most popular reason for abortion in Australia. There were 4,650 abortions in South Australia in 2014, 95% of which were performed for the woman’s mental health.
The 2014 figures, released this month, give us a greater understanding of the scope of the issue, in a country that does not stipulate reporting of abortion practices. While West Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland do collect abortion statistics, South Australia is the only state that regularly publishes a detailed report of age, prevalence and reasons for abortion. There is no reason to believe that South Australian abortion figures would be inconsistent with other states, therefore the data continues to be used broadly as our most accurate measure of Australian abortion practices.
How do the figures compare, and what about women who have repeat abortions?
The overall number of abortions for 2014 is in fact a decline on previous years, dropping since nearly 5,700 in 1999. Startlingly, however, 36% of women who had an abortion in 2014 had already undertaken a previous abortion, 8% of whom had undertaken two previous abortions. The figures climb as the women get older:
– 13.4% of teens had already had a previous abortion;
– 30.3% of women aged 20-24 had already had a previous abortion, and;
– 44.2% of women aged 35-39 had already had a previous abortion.
What was the main reason that women chose abortion in 2014?
The mental health of the pregnant woman was the reason given for 4,436 babies aborted that year; 174 were due to a serious disability detected in the baby; 35 were for a medical condition or pre-existing psychiatric disorder; and five (0.1%) were for rape.
That 95% of abortions are performed due to the mental health of the mother does not mean 4,436 mothers had clinical depression. Studies show that women, for whatever reason, cite circumstances of finances, career, timing and relationships as being jeopardised by the unplanned pregnancy, causing stress and concern.
How old are women when they have abortions?
The highest abortion rate was among women in the 20-24 age bracket, representing 27% of terminations (1,256 total).
When did most terminations happen in 2014?
The highest number of terminations for 2014 were in the month of July (444 abortions, or 9.5% of the year’s count). The lowest was November with 331 (7.1%).
As to gestational timing – the majority (91%) of abortions take place in the first trimester. It was reported that abortions in the second trimester increased from the average of 8.1% (taken from the past five years) to 9%, or 420 babies. There were 107 late term abortions (performed after 20 weeks); 52 were described as being due to “serious handicap of foetus” with the remainder connected to the health and wellbeing of the mother.
What do the 2014 South Australia figures tell us about abortion in Australia?
Based on these figures, we can reliably say that more than one in four women aged 15-44 (26.3%) will have an abortion in their lifetime.
“A woman may have more than one termination of pregnancy in her lifetime, and to estimate how prevalent termination of pregnancy is at these age-specific induced abortion rates, a total first induced abortion rate may be calculated after excluding women with repeat terminations. The TFAR for 2014 was 262.9 per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years. This suggests that 26.3% of women would have at least one termination of pregnancy in their lifetime if they experienced the termination of pregnancy rates of the different age groups for 2014.”
Learn more about Australian abortion statistics HERE.
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