Abortion

An abortion is a medical process undertaken to prevent the birth of a baby, with estimates indicating one in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime. There are many reasons why a woman might decide to have an abortion including:

  • personal circumstances;
  • a health risk to the mother; or
  • a high probability that the baby will have a medical condition.

Research suggests the most common reasons for having an abortion are family and other social reasons, such as being in education, or having financial constraints. 

Reducing unwanted pregnancies is an ambition in the Department of Health’s Framework for Sexual Health Improvement in England (2013). The Department of Health’s policy also states that women who request an abortion should have early access to services if legally entitled to an abortion under the Abortion Act 1967.

Abortion rates

Key findings for Lancashire-14

Where rates are quoted, these are per 1,000 of the female population aged 15-44 for 2016.

  • In Lancashire-12 the abortion rate (16.4) is similar to the England rate (16.7) and is exhibiting an upward trend.
  • In Blackburn with Darwen (18.6) and Blackpool (20.1) the rate of abortions is significantly higher than the England rate; the abortion rate in the two unitary authorities hasn’t changed significantly over the previous five years.
  • In the Lancashire-12 area (81.9%) and Blackburn with Darwen (80.1%) the percentage of abortions carried out at less than 10 weeks is similar to the England average (80.8%) whereas in Blackpool (84.9%) it is higher than the England average.

Repeat abortions

In England, over a third of abortions (for women of all ages) are repeat abortions. This may indicate a lack of access to good quality contraception services and advice, as well as issues with the use of contraception. While clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) are responsible for the majority of abortion services, local authorities are responsible for commissioning comprehensive sexual health services and will use the abortion data to inform the provision of these sexual health services.

Key findings for Lancashire-14

These key facts are based on the 2016 data, from the Department of Health.

  • In the Lancashire-14 area, approximately 38% of legal abortions in 2016 were to women who had had one or more previous abortions, a similar proportion as in 2015 (37%).
  • Within the Lancashire-14 area the proportion of repeat abortions in 2016 ranged from 44% in NHS Blackpool CCG to 30% in NHS Lancashire North and NHS West Lancashire CCG.
  • For women aged under-25 years, in both Lancashire-14 and Lancashire-12, just over a quarter (26%) of abortions were to women who had undergone a previous abortion, compared to 27% in England.
  • The proportion of repeat abortions in women aged under-25 years ranged from 17% in NHS Lancaster North CCG to 28% in NHS Blackpool, NHS Chorley and South Ribble, NHS East Lancashire and NHS Greater Preston CCG.
  • For women aged over-25 years, nearly half (48%) of the abortions were to women who had undergone a previous abortion, compared to 46% in England.
  • For women aged over-25 years NHS Blackpool CCG (56%) followed by NHS Fylde and Wyre CCG (54%) had the highest proportion of repeat abortions, with NHS West Lancashire CCG (35%) having the lowest proportion.

Under-18 abortions

It is an ambition in the Department of Health's A Framework for Sexual Health Improvement in England and an indicator in the Public Health Outcomes Framework to reduce the rate of under-18 conceptions, of which around half end in an abortion. Reducing the rate of under-18 conceptions will involve reducing both the number of abortions and the number of births.

Key findings for Lancashire-14

These key facts are based on the figures presented in Public Health England's Sexual and Reproductive Health Profiles (2015).

  • In the Lancashire-12 area, just over half of conceptions in those aged under-18 years lead to an abortion.
  • In the Lancashire-12 area, (50.5%) and Blackburn with Darwen (41.9%) the percentage of under-18s conceptions leading to abortion is similar to the England rate (51.2%) whereas in Blackpool (37.0) this rate is significantly lower than the England rate.
  • In the Lancashire-12 area at a district level, the percentage of under-18 conceptions leading to abortion figure ranges from 78.6% in Ribble Valley to 33.3% in Rossendale.
  • Based on the 10 years up to 2015, in the Lanashire-12 area, Blackburn with Darwen and Blackpool the percentage of under-18s conceptions leading to abortion is showing signs of increase.
  • In 2015, the under-18 abortion rate (per 1,000 conceptions) for Lancashire-12 (9.2), Blackburn with Darwen (9.2) and Blackpool (10.5) is similar to the England rate (8.9).

Variation across CCGs

Legal abortion rates (2016) by CCGs across the Lancashire-12 area show a variation in rates across the county. NHS Chorley and South Ribble CCG has the highest rate of legal abortions (32.0 per 1,000) for women aged 18-19, with NHS Lancaster North CCG having the lowest (12.0). For those under-18, NHS Blackpool (10.5) and NHS East Lancashire CCG had the highest rate (11.0) and NHS Fylde and Wyre CCG the lowest (4.7).

When looking at the total number of abortions by CCGs across the Lancashire-14 area, in 2016 there were 237 legal abortions in women aged 18 and under; the highest was in NHS East Lancashire CCG (72) and the lowest in NHS Fylde and Wyre CCG (12). In 2015 there 319 legal abortions in women aged 18 and under across Lancashire-14.

Further analysis and data

Abortion analysis (XLSX 33 KB)

Page updated October 2017