There were around 5,000 fewer abortions in 2016 than a decade ago, according to latest figures from South Australia and Western Australia showing a 6% drop in terminations.*
The figures indicate that increasingly women are saying no to abortion and, despite often difficult circumstances, choosing life for their babies. We also recognise that making such a courageous decision often means there are key people stepping up to support them.
South Australia and Western Australia are the only states gathering information on abortions, and South Australia is the only state that records why. From these numbers gathered, we can gain a glimpse at the full picture of unplanned pregnancy in Australia.
The rate of abortion per 1000 women aged 15-44 has fallen steadily in the past decade from around 17 in WA and 15 in SA, to around 15.1 and 13.5 respectively. There were 4,439 abortions in South Australia in 2015, down 5.8% from the 4,715 in 2005, while WA figures of 7,834 in 2016 were down 6% on the 2006 figure of 8,336.
Despite the decrease, the annual number of abortions remains at 72,000-75,000, down on 2005 estimates of around 80,000 abortions a year.* (These figures do not include the use of the morning-after pill which may or may not have an abortifacient effect, depending on when it’s administered).
There were also some alarming discoveries:
- Latest South Australian figures also show 6.9% of women experience complications after chemical abortions using RU486, most requiring surgical abortions to remove the baby.
- South Australian figures show about one in four women will have an abortion, and 36.6% of women had had a previous abortion. Ninety-two women (2.1%) had had 4 or more previous abortions.
- In Western Australia, 8% or 639 abortions were post 20 weeks.
The 2015 SA figures reveal that 95.6% of all abortions were related to the mental health of the mother. It’s important to note that this figure does not mean that these mothers had clinical depression. Studies* show that women, for whatever reason, cite circumstances of finances, career, timing and relationships as being jeopardised by the unplanned pregnancy, causing stress and concern.
Reported reasons for termination
South Australia, 2015.
|Reason||Number of abortions||Percentage|
|Mental health of woman||4,244||95.6%|
|Serious handicap of the fetus||169||3.8%|
|Specified medical condition||25||0.6%|
*1. Induced Abortions in Western Australia 2010-2012, 4th report of the Abortion Notification System, http://ww2.health.wa.gov.au/~/media/Files/Corporate/Reports%20and%20publications/Abortion/PDF/Abortion_Report_2010-12.ashx; Questions on Notice by Nick Goiran to the Health Minister, WA Legislative Council, Hansard, April 18, 2014, p 2209; March 2015, p 2011; May 2016, p2504b. South Australian Legislative Assembly, May 18, 2017, South Australian Abortion Reporting Committee 2015. Australian Bureau of Statistics.
*2. 90,000 annual abortions was the estimate given by Senator Patterson in her response to Senator Boswell’s question in 2005. See Australia Senate, 2005 debates, vol s14, P69. A parliamentary review that same year noted the range of 70,000-100,000 abortions per year, but determined it was impossible to get an accurate count of abortions . See Department of Parliamentary Services, How Many Abortions are There in Australia? http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22library%2Fprspub%2FCF7F6%22 The Australian Medical Journal reported there were an estimated 84,460 abortions in 2003, Annabelle Chan and C. Sage,
*3. Stephanie Croft, Abortion in Australia in the 21st Century, Facts, Current Trendsand the Way Ahead 2006, NSW Right to Life, p.15.