Scottish Abortion Rate at 10-Year High


More abortions took place in Scotland last year than in any other year since records began, apart from 2007 and 2008. Official figures for 2018 show that more older women are having abortions in Scotland, with the overall number surging to a ten-year high. 13,286 women aged 15 to 44 had abortions last year – a rate of 12.9 per 1,000.


The NHS Scotland Information Services Division report said the factors behind the recent increase were “not yet exactly clear”.


Since late 2017 women living in Northern Ireland have been able to have free abortions in Scotland, but fewer than ten are reported in the 2018 figures. The report concludes that the 2017 legal change “appears to have had very little impact”.


The figures also showed rates for women in the most deprived areas remain about twice as high as those from the least deprived areas at 17.8 per 1,000 women aged 15-44 compared to 8.9.


For the first time the figures are broken down to show the number of women taking a drug to induce the second part of a two-stage abortion process at home. These abortions accounted for 30 per cent of the total.


There were 34 abortions for Down syndrome in Scotland in 2018. While numbers have fluctuated over the last five years, the 2018 number represents a 48 per cent increase from 23 in 2010. This is likely to be attributed to the private availability of cfDNA testing (otherwise known as NIPT) which has already been predicted to increase the numbers of children with Down syndrome being screened out by abortion.


According to the Don’t Screen Us Out campaign, a coalition of Down syndrome advocacy groups, this situation is set to worsen as the Scottish Government intends to move ahead with proposals to implement cfDNA testing into Scotland’s Foetal Anomaly and Down Syndrome Screening Programme next year.


Lynn Murray, spokeswoman for the Don’t Screen Us Out campaign said: “As a mother of an 19-year-old daughter who has Down’s syndrome, it is deeply concerning to see that the number of abortions for Down’s syndrome in Scotland has increased by 48 per cent since 2010. Sadly this is likely the tip of the iceberg – if the Scottish Government follows through on proposals to make these tests available on the NHS, projections show that there will likely be a steep increase in the numbers of children with Down’s syndrome screened out by termination.


“We are urging the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Jeane Freeman, to delay the implementation of the new test until there has been full consultation with the community of people with Down’s syndrome and the ethical issues of screening which have been acknowledged by the Scottish Government are resolved by the introduction of medical reforms.


“We are also concerned about the impact that any changes to abortion legislation in Northern Ireland would have on the population of people with Down’s syndrome in the region. As Lord Shinkwin said in Parliament last year, Northern Ireland is currently the safest place in the UK to be diagnosed with Down’s syndrome before birth.


“According to the most recent published statistics, in England and Wales 90% of babies found to have Down’s syndrome are aborted. Northern Ireland currently has a very different approach. Disability-selective abortion for Down’s syndrome is illegal and there is a culture of accepting and supporting people with disabilities rather than eliminating them.


This is reflected directly in recent official figures showing that almost 100% of babies found to have Down’s syndrome in Northern Ireland are born. This greatly contrasts with the 90% termination rate for Down’s syndrome from other parts of the UK.”

NHS Scotland. May 28. The Scotsman. May 28. The Times. May 29. Don’t Screen Us Out. May 28.

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