The number of older women having abortions is falling fast as more choose to be mothers
Abortions among older women are falling fast as growing numbers choose to become mothers.
But figures published yesterday showed that, at the same time, abortion rates have been going up among younger women as more pursue higher education and careers.
The findings from the Office for National Statistics suggest that women over 40 are increasingly unlikely to regard pregnancy as a mistake, while many are actively trying to start a family.
The abandonment of abortion by the great majority of women who conceive over the age of 40 was revealed by records of conceptions in 2011 in England and Wales.
Conception rates among women over 40 went up 3.7 per cent in a year and have now more than doubled in two decades.
In 1990, there were 12,032 women aged over 40 who became pregnant. By 2011 that had reached 28,747. But in 2011 just over a quarter of those women went for an abortion, while a decade ago the proportion was almost 35 per cent, and 20 years ago it was nearly 42 per cent.
The ONS report said: ‘Reasons for an increased number of women aged 40 and over conceiving include increased participation in higher education; delayed marriage and partnership formation; the desire to establish a career, get on the housing ladder and ensure financial stability before starting a family.’ It also noted ‘a shift in aspirations of young women towards education’.
At the peak age for motherhood, between 30 and 34, only 12.8 per cent of pregnant women had abortions in 2011.
But abortion rates among under-30s have been rising as more pursue education and careers, and as women put off marrying or decide they cannot afford children.
Among women aged between 20 and 24, 27.7 per cent of pregnancies ended in abortion. Nearly half of all pregnancies to girls under 18 ended in abortions, and six out of ten pregnancies to girls under 16 are terminated.
Teen pregnancy rates fell sharply in the year after the Coalition Government abandoned Labour’s flagship Teenage Pregnancy Strategy, a £250million campaign to spread contraception and sex education that was meant to halve the rate at which girls under 18 in England become pregnant.
The number of teenage pregnancies in England and Wales fell by 10 per cent but the target set by Tony Blair to halve teen pregnancy rates is still far from being met
Conceptions among women under 18 in England and Wales fell by 10 per cent to just over 31,000, and pregnancies among girls under 16 also fell by 10 per cent to under 6,000.
Despite the fall, the target of halving teen pregnancy rates that was set by Tony Blair in the early days of his premiership is still far from being met.
Earlier this month the ONS said that unemployment and worklessness are the key reasons influencing teenage pregnancy, and played down lack of free contraception or sex education as a cause.
Professor David Paton of Nottingham University Business School said yesterday: ‘Teenage pregnancy rates have only been going down since 2008, by which time the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy had already spent a lot of money.
‘The rate has still been going down since the TPA ended in 2010.
‘It confirms what we already know from the scientific literature – reducing teen pregnancy is not a matter of more contraception and sex education.’
He added: ‘One factor is that more girls want to stay on at school.’
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