FSRH Statement on Annual Abortion Statistics, England and Wales, 2021

Posted 22 June 2022

Date: 22 Jun 2022

Type: FSRH Press Releases and Statements

Statistics published by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) today show that abortion rates have increased by 2% since 2020. The figure for 2021 was 214,869, the highest on record.

The statistics show that the abortion rate for women aged under 18 has continued to decrease from 15.0 per 1,000 women in 2011 to 6.9 in 2020, with a further decrease to 6.4 per 1,000 in 2021. The decline since 2011 is particularly marked in the under 16 age group, where the rates have decreased from 3.4 per 1,000 women in 2011 to 1.1 per 1,000 women in 2021. In turn, abortion rates for women aged 30-34 increased from 17.2 per 1,000 women in 2011 to 22.1 in 2021.

In 2021, 89% of abortions were performed under 10 weeks, increasing from 78% in 2011. Medical abortions accounted for 87% of total abortions in 2021, an increase of 2 percentage points from 2020. There has been a continuing upward trend in medical abortions for the past 30 years, and OHID states that there has been an additional effect during 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, when telemedicine for early medical abortion was made available to women in England and Wales for the first time.

Dr Asha Kasliwal, President of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), said:

“We welcome the annual abortion figures released today by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID). It is encouraging to see that the recent change in the law that introduced telemedicine for early medical abortion care, allowing both abortion medications to be taken at home, has enhanced timely access to abortion care. Home use of abortion medication is safe, more accessible, and reduced waiting times have led to abortions being carried out much earlier in gestation.

“The figures released today also show that women are increasingly conceiving later in life. Although for many this is a conscious decision, for others this is not so. The increase in abortions in women aged 30-34 may indicate an unmet need for contraceptive care and services for women over 30.

"Access to contraception and information must be understood as vital features of abortion care for all age groups. We need a joined-up holistic healthcare system that is simple to navigate and supports women and girls of any age to make the best choices for their sexual and reproductive health at any point of their life course, wherever they live.

“We call on the Government to prioritise the unmet need for contraception and to adequately resource sexual and reproductive healthcare services over the life course in both the upcoming Women’s Health Strategy and the Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare Strategy, both of which are due to be released shortly”


For further information, please contact: Camila Azevedo, External Affairs Manager, at 02037945309/ cazevedo@fsrh.org

Notes to Editors

The 2021 data can be found here
Telemedicine for early medical abortion (EMA) was temporarily approved in March 2020 by the Secretary of State for Health & Social Care. The announcement can be found here.
Telemedicine for EMA was made permanent on 30 March 2022, the result of an amendment to the Health and Care Bill, initially tabled by Baroness Liz Sugg in the House of Lords.

About FSRH

The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) is the largest UK professional membership organisation working at the heart of sexual and reproductive health (SRH), supporting healthcare professionals to deliver high quality care. It works with its 15,000 members to shape sexual reproductive health for all. It produces evidence-based clinical guidance, standards, training, qualifications and research into SRH. It also delivers conferences and publishes the journal BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health in partnership with the BMJ.