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Abortion Statistics for England and Wales during the COVID-19 pandemic

Abortion  •  10 September 2020  • 6 min read

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Media statement

London, 10th September 2020 – If you are covering today’s new Abortion Statistics for England and Wales during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may find the following statement and summary from MSI Reproductive Choices UK helpful.

Today, the Department of Health and Social Care published Abortion statistics during the coronavirus pandemic: January to June 2020:

  • Between January to June 2020, there were 109,836 abortions performed on residents of England and Wales. This compares with 105,540 over the same period in 2019.
  • Between January to June 2020, medical abortions accounted for 82% of abortions. This compares with 72% of abortions over the same period in 2019.
  • Between April and June 2020, there were 23,061 medical abortions where both medicines (antiprogesterone and prostaglandin) were administered at home, this represents 43% of abortions during this time. The percentage of abortions using this method increased between April and June, accounting for 33% of abortions in April and increasing to 51% of abortions in June.
  • Between January to June 2020, 86% of abortions were performed at under 10 weeks. This compares with 81% in January to June 2019, an increase of 5 percentage points.
  • Almost 50% of abortions were performed before 7 weeks from January to June 2020, compared to almost 40% for the same period in 2019.

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

“I am not surprised by today’s figures considering the lack of investment in contraceptive services over the last 10 years. Even before the pandemic, women faced long waiting times for the most effective methods and this has been made significantly worse by the COVID-19 crisis, leaving many women struggling to access any contraception at all.

Women’s sexual health needs do not diminish during a pandemic, and these figures confirm the crucial need for women of all ages to be able to access high-quality contraception and abortion services.

Telemedicine is the single biggest enhancement in abortion care for years and has allowed tens of thousands of women across the UK, from those caring for children and elderly relatives to women at risk of violence if they leave the house, to receive the healthcare they need and deserve during the pandemic.

“Waiting times have reduced significantly, easing the distress of an unwanted pregnancy and reducing the already low complication rate even further. We have also seen a 77% increase in the number of safeguarding cases identified, meaning more protection for vulnerable women and girls who can now access help in private without the need to inform a coercive partner or divulge intimate details to family.

We hope the Government continues to stand with women and ensures this safe, effective and convenient service is made permanent.”

MSI Reproductive Choices UK telemedicine fact box:

  • MSI Reproductive Choices UK launched its telemedicine service on 6th April, which has enabled more than 9,600[i] clients to have a phone or video consultation and take both sets of abortion pills in the privacy of their own home.
  • Clients have been incredibly satisfied with the telemedicine service, with 98%[ii] of clients surveyed rating their experience as good or very good and 99.9%[iii] of clients reporting they had adequate privacy.
  • Waiting times have significantly reduced, with almost half of women (46%)[iv] able to have a detailed consultation with a clinician within one day, compared with 9%[v] of non-telemedicine clients.
  • Gestational age has reduced, with 56%[vi] of women having their telemedicine abortion before 6 weeks compared to 37%[vii] previously. Lower gestational age reduces the already low complication rate of early medical abortion to 2.5%[viii]. Complications include retained products of conception (1.5%)[x] and failed termination of pregnancy rate (1.0%)[xi] which can be treated by minor, planned procedures. NICE also states that every day of gestational reduction saves the NHS £1.6m[xii].
  • MSI Reproductive Choices UK has found safeguarding via telemedicine using a telephone or video consultation to be highly effective, as women and girls who are too frightened to attend consultations in person can talk more openly and privately. Safeguarding concerns identified have increased by 77%[xiii] during the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic and include major safeguarding cases such as a 12-year-old being subject to rape by two relatives.

For further information and interviews please contact:
Email: press@msichoices.org.uk
Telephone: +44(0)7769166516

[i] MSI UK internal appointment data from its Client Record System for clients who have used the Telemedicine Service since its introduction in April 2020 to 4th September 2020.
[ii] MSI UK Internal data from its ‘Welfare check’ telephone questionnaire conducted by Rightcare. Fieldwork was conducted between between 21st April 2020 and 4th September 2020. Total sample size was 1,246 respondents who had used the Telemedicine service, with 1,223 respondents rating the service good or very good.
[iii] MSI UK Internal data from its ‘Welfare check’ telephone questionnaire conducted by Rightcare. Fieldwork was conducted between between 21st April 2020 and 4th September 2020. Total sample size was 1,246 respondents who had used the Telemedicine service, with 1,245 respondents stating they could talk privately.
[iv] MSI UK internal appointment data from its Client Record System for clients who have used the Telemedicine Service since its introduction in April 2020 to 4th September 2020.
[v] MSI UK internal appointment data from its Client Record System for clients who had an early medical abortion requiring attendance at a clinic
[vi] MSI UK internal data analysing the safety and effectiveness of telemedicine from one cohort of clients who have used the Telemedicine Service over a two month interval since its introduction in April 2020 compared with a control group cohort who needed an early medical abortion prior to telemedicine (Jan – Feb 2020). MSI UK complication rates include ‘retained products of conception’: 14.8/1000 of 4862 telemedicine clients, compared with 23.0/1000 of 8140 clients (Early medical abortion pre-COVID) and ‘continuing pregnancy (Failed termination of pregnancy): 9.5/1000 of 4862 telemedicine clients, compared with 20.5/1000 of 8140 clients (Early medical abortion pre-COVID). Other complications, including missed diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy, significant haemorrhage or pain requiring admission, were recorded in 3 or fewer cases with no difference between the telemedicine and control groups.
[vii] Ibid
[viii] Ibid
[ix] Ibid
[x] Ibid
[xi] Ibid
[xii] NICE guideline NG140 – Abortion care, 2019.
[xiii] MSI UK internal data for calls to their helpline, One Call, which contained a safeguarding concern. Received between 6th December 2020 and 5th April 2020 (total: 1,583 calls), compared with calls received between 6th April 2020 and 4th September 2020 (total: 2,805 calls).


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