Abortions in England and Wales reach record levels

(Photo: Unsplash/Luma Pimentel)

Abortions in England and Wales have reached record-breaking levels, new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.

The latest data from the ONS reveals that around a quarter of all pregnancies in England and Wales in 2018 were terminated. 

The percentage of pregnancies ending in abortion among women in England and Wales rose from 22.7% in 2017 to 24% in 2018, the highest since the ONS began recording conception rates in 1990. 

Abortion rates increased in all regions over the last decade but were the highest in London at 27.1%.

At the same time, the conception rate in England and Wales fell to its lowest level since 2004, with an estimated 839,043 in 2018 - or 75.4 conceptions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 , down nearly 1% on 2017. 

(Photo: ONS)

This rate has been decreasing almost every year since 2011, with the exceptions of 2014 and 2015.

The only age group to see an increase in conception was the over-40s, which rose for a third year in a row to 16.3 conceptions per 1,000 women in 2018 - more than doubling since 1991.

"Women are progressively delaying childbearing until older ages," the ONS said. 

Pregnancy among the under-18s decreased for the 11th year in a row, the longest continued decrease since 1990. 

(Photo: ONS)

The ONS attributed this to government strategies in the last 20 years aimed at reducing teenage pregnancy rates.

It said: "These initiatives, along with other factors such as a shift in aspirations of young women towards education, led to a decline in conception rates for women aged 15 to 17 years.

"This decline has been particularly evident since 2007, which also coincided with the start of the global financial crisis.

"Since our records began in 1969, there has not been such a prolonged decrease in conception rates for women aged under 18 years."