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MSI Reproductive Choices UK comment on 2020 ONS Abortion Statistics for England and Wales

Abortion  •  10 June 2021  • 3 min read

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Media statement

London, 10th June 2021 – If you are covering today’s new Abortion Statistics for England and Wales, you may find the following statement and summary from MSI Reproductive Choices UK helpful.

  • Data released today from the Department of Health and Social Care show that 210,860 abortions were reported in England and Wales in 2020, the highest since records began. This compares with 209,519 over the same period in 2019.
  • 88% of abortions were carried out under 10 weeks. This compares with 82% in 2019.
  • The abortion rate for women aged under 18 has decreased compared to 2019. The largest increases in abortion rates by age are amongst women aged 30 to 34.
  • Medical abortion accounted for 85% of abortions. This compares with 73% in 2019.
  • Since telemedicine was introduced, taking both medications at home has become the most common procedure, accounting for 47% of all abortions during the period April to December 2020. At the same time, there has been a large increase in the percentage of medical abortion overall, accounting for 88% of abortions for the last three quarters (April to December) of 2020 compared to 77% of the first quarter (January to March) of 2020. This also compares to 74% for the last three quarters (April to December) of 2019.
  • Despite abortion being decriminalised in Northern Ireland in 2019, there were 371 abortions for women from Northern Ireland in 2020. This compares to 1,014 in 2019.

Dr Jonathan Lord, UK Medical Director for MSI Reproductive Choices, said:

“These numbers come as no surprise. Access to contraceptive services, already challenging because of a sustained lack of investment, has become even more restricted during the pandemic, leaving many people facing unacceptable waits. This is even more stark for the most effective long-acting methods like the implant and coil.  At the same time, the anxiety and uncertainty caused by the pandemic has undoubtedly had an impact. The message we have heard loud and clear at our contraceptive clinics is that cut off from their support networks and anxious about how the crisis will affect them, the last thing many people want is to get pregnant.

“Yet, despite the challenges created by the pandemic, the figures released today are testament to the positive changes brought about by the introduction of telemedicine. Allowing people to opt for early medical abortion from the privacy and safety of their own homes has quite simply revolutionised abortion care and is so much kinder for patients. At a time when most NHS services were severely impacted by the pandemic, waiting times have reduced and people have been able to access abortion care earlier in their pregnancy.

“Definitive studies have shown that telemedicine has improved access to abortion care and is safe, effective and preferred by patients, with waiting times and the distress caused by an unwanted pregnancy considerably reduced. The American drugs regulator (the FDA) has used our evidence to lift their restrictions and we hope the Government here continues to stand with women and ensures this safe, effective and convenient service, already recommended by NICE before the pandemic, is made permanent.”

For further information please contact:

Email: press@mischoices.org

Telephone: +44 (0) 7769 166 516


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