Abortions in the UK

Abortions in the UK Hypothesis: “Changes in the law and changes in attitudes towards
pregnancy have resulted in an increase in the number of abortions in
the UK”.Introduction
As part of myGCSEHumanities I am going to do a coursework based on
Abortion. The unit the coursework is from is culture and beliefs-
individuals and groups have different beliefs, attitudes and values
regarding cultural, moral, political, religious, spiritual and social
issues. This coursework is from key idea 4.
The hypothesis I will be referring to is “changes in the law and
changes in attitudes towards pregnancy have resulted in an increase in
the number of abortions in the UK”. In my opinion I think the
hypothesis is correct but by the end of the coursework I will know
whether it is correct or incorrect.
I find the issue abortion very interesting because abortion is
something that happens everyday in the UK and before studying abortion
I hardly knew anything about it.
The sub questions I am going to use to answer my hypothesis are:
q What is the law on abortion and how does it compare with other
countries in Europe?
q What is the abortion rate in the UK and how does it compare to other
q How has the abortion rate changed in the UK since 1967 and for what
q Why is the issue abortion controversial within the UK? What are the
differing attitudes, beliefs towards abortion?
q What can be done to reduce the number of abortions?
The methods I am going to use to answer my hypothesis are: -
Primary Sources
Questionnaire- I am going to give out 20 questionnaires to people of
different age groups in my neighbourhood to find out what they think
about abortion and whether it has increased.
Interview- I am going to interview a vicar from a local church to find
out his views and religious viewpoints about abortion.
Secondary Sources
Internet- I am going to use the Internet to find statistics about what
age women have had and abortion, how many married and single women
have had an abortion and the abortion rate in England and Wales? I am
also going to use the Internet to find a map of Europe where abortion
is legal.
Books- I am going to use books to find some information about abortion
and what the term abortion means.
What is abortion?
Abortion is a procedure carried out on a pregnant woman who wants to
end her pregnancy. It is the termination of a foetus before it can
survive outside the mother’s womb. The foetus is normally aborted
before 24 weeks of pregnancy but in some more severe cases the foetus
can be aborted up to 28 weeks.
Types of abortion
There are 4 types of abortion depending on how many weeks old the
foetus is. The 4 types of abortion are:
q Up to 9 weeks- Early medical abortion
q 5 to 15 weeks- Vacuum aspiration abortion
q 15 to 19 weeks- Surgical dilation and evacuation
q 20 to 24 weeks- Surgical two-stage abortion
90 percent of abortions occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Only
1.3 percent takes place after 20 weeks.
History on the abortion law-————————————
In 1803 abortion was a crime because abortion was illegal in the UK
and medical professors worried that abortion was dangerous and carried
out by people who knew nothing about abortion, this was known as
backstreet abortion. As abortion was illegal in 1803 women had no
choice but to turn to backstreet abortionists this had resulted to
many deaths of women whilst the abortion was taking place. In 1914
women tried to kill the foetus themselves by falling down a flight of
stairs or taking drugs.
Law on abortion in 1967-——————————
Abortion was legalised on October 27th 1967 and came into effect on
April 27th 1968. Abortion was legal as long as it was performed by a
registered practitioner in anNHShospital or in a private clinic.
The act allowed women to nave an abortion on the following reasons:
1. To save the mothers life.
2. To prevent permanent injury to the mothers physical or mental
3. Under 28 weeks to avoid injury to the physical or mental health of
the mother.
4. Under 28 weeks to avoid injury to the physical or mental health of
any existing child(ren).
5. If the child was likely to be severely physically or mentally
The abortion reason also had to be discussed and confirmed between two
doctors and only then could be performed. Doctors and medical staff
had the legal right to reject some cases of abortion.
Law on abortion in 1990
In 1990 changes were made to the abortion act by the Human
Fertilisation and Embryology act. It introduced a time limit of 24
weeks for reasons 2 and 4. Reasons 1,3 and 5 were now without any
limit. Before this change had taken place there was a 28-week limit
for all the reasons.
The act also said that if a woman was to have multiple births the
doctor could terminate 1 or more of the foetuses in order to leave the
other alive.
Why was abortion legalised in 1967?
Abortion was legalised in 1967 because a large number of abortions
were taking place illegally. Also doctors were charging desperate
women high fees of money privately and between 60,000 and 120,000
backstreet abortions took place illegally.
Other reasons for abortion
Many women also have an abortion privately for the following reasons:
q Having financial problems.
q Being single and lacking support.
q Being homeless or no secure base,
q Having a family already.
q Not wanting children at all.
q Being pregnant as a result of incest or rape.
q Having relationship or marriage problems.
q Having a pregnancy that will result in a seriously handicapped baby.
q Being to young or maybe to old.
q Having a serious disease that would be made worse by the pregnancy.
Where is abortion legal in Europe?
[IMAGE] 1.Republic of Ireland 11. Sweden
2.United Kingdom 12.Finland
3.Portugal 13.Estonia
4.Spain 14.Russia
5.France 15.Switzerland
6.Belgium 16.Italy
7.Netherlands 17.Slovenia
8.Germany 18.Austria
9.Denmark 19.Czech republic
10.Norway 20.Poland
The map above shows countries in Europe where abortion is legal but
only under certain circumstances.
Abortion Statistics
Ages of women who have had an abortion.
2000 Abortions on residents in England and Wales, by age group:AGENumber of abortions
Percentage of total
15 and under
16- 19
20- 24
25- 29
30- 34
35- 39
40- 45
45 and over
This table shows the age group of women who have had an abortion in
England and Wales. Women aged 20-29 have had the most abortions. Women
over 45 had no abortions.
Married and single women abortion statistics
In 1995 in England and Wales:
q 66% abortions were to single women
q 22% abortions were to married women
q 8% abortions were to divorced, separated or widowed women
q 4% were unidentified
These statistics show that more single women were having an abortion
than married women.
Abortion statistics in England and Wales in
Total Abortions
Average age of women at birth of first child
The table shows the number of abortions in the UK since the abortion
act in 1967. This shows that since the abortion law became legal there
has been an increase in abortions over the years and the abortion rate
is getting higher and higher. This table proves that changes in the
abortion law have resulted in an increase in the number of abortions
in the UK.
Public opinion on abortion
The public in United Kingdom support legal abortion. A poll that took
place on February 1997 showed that 64% agreed to the statement
‘abortion should be made legally available for all those who want it’
and only 25% disagreed. The percentage of British people who agreed to
the statement had increased by 10% and the percentage that disagreed
fell by 11% since 1980.
Chart to show statement ’abortion should be made legally available for
all those who want it’.
[IMAGE] This pie chart shows that more people approve of abortion than
disapprove. This proves that changes in attitudes towards pregnancy
have resulted in an increase in abortion.
Circumstances when people approve and disapprove of abortion
Approve Disapprove
When the woman’s life is in danger 93% 3%
When the woman’s health is at risk 88% 6%
In a case of rape 88% 20%
When the child would have a mental disability 67% 21%
When the woman is under 16 58% 29%
The attitudes towards pregnancy have increased the rate of abortion
because more people now think that abortion should be legal. My pie
chart proves this. People nowadays think that abortion is the only
solution for an unwanted pregnancy.
The rate of abortions has risen due to the change of law because since
abortion has become legal in 1968 there has been a rise in the number
of abortions each year. Since the abortion act in 1967 over 4.7
million abortions have been performed over the past 30 years. My table
of abortion statistics can prove this.
I think both my primary sources could have been better. My
questionnaire could have been better because I only gave 20 out to
people of different age groups. If I had given around 50
questionnaires out I would have gotten more accurate results. I would
also add a few more questions on it. My interview could have been
better because the vicar had no time to answer too many questions so I
only asked a few which weren’t of any help. I should have interviewed
someone who had been through an abortion that would have been more