Why older women are having more abortions: it’s just another form of contraception

(Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)

The Department of Health has recently published abortion statistics, and a report in the Guardian has provided some commentary on them. It is well worth reading the whole article, for it makes sobering, sad and at the same time instructive reading.

The Guardian is, as everyone knows, a paper that is strongly identified with the so-called “pro-choice” position, and all that goes with it. However, the latest figures, and the analysis provided by the Guardian, to my mind at least, undermine the pro-choice position considerably.

Consider the following.

First of all, abortions are rising, and these figures represent a five-year high. One of the mantras of the pro-choice lobby is that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare”. Indeed one of the main arguments used for its legalisation in this country was that legalisation would not open the floodgates. Well, that does not seem to be happening. There are more abortions than ever. Moreover, the Department of Health is counting: so this matters to them. It should matter to all of us. Each number means something; each number stands for a person.

Second, the article links the rise in abortion to restricted access to contraception. Ann Furedi herself, the chief executive of Britain’s main abortion provider, says so. So does the shadow health secretary. So, does this mean that abortion is a safety net for those cases where contraception has failed? Is abortion intrinsically linked to contraception? There is strong evidence that this is the case. We are told: “Almost four in 10 terminations are now carried out on women who have undergone the procedure before. Fifty women had each had eight terminations, the figures revealed.” In other words, abortion is not the recourse of those in dramatic situations, or who are living through extraordinarily difficult circumstances. For the 50 women who have had eight abortions, having an abortion is the “usual” thing to do. And for 40 per cent it is something they have done before. Can anyone seriously maintain that abortion is not just a method of post-conception contraception for many?

The third thing to note is that the demographic of women who have abortions has shifted substantially: they are on the whole older, and married or with a partner. That means they are mature women, who should be capable of making responsible decisions, and who have partners and husbands to support them. So, what has gone wrong here? Why should people who are more likely to have a stable family background choose abortion in larger numbers than ever?

When abortion was first legalised in Britain, under certain strict conditions, all of which have been long forgotten, the picture that was painted of the woman who would be coming for abortion was radically different to the picture that emerges today. Back then she was young, friendless, desperate, vulnerable, seeking abortion as a last resort, a deserving object of our compassion. Today, this picture makes less and less sense. The figures we have now make it clear that the woman coming for abortion is quite likely to be in her 30s, married or with a partner, and who has had a previous abortion, and may well have living children.

So what has changed? Well, everything. The mindset that promotes abortion and contraception represents a continuum; both see fertility as a curse; both take measures, though of differing moral gravity, to stop fertility. But abortion is not the dramatic affair it clearly once was; but rather it represents the culmination of the contraceptive mentality.

I said that the Guardian analysis undermines the position of the pro-abortion lobby, and so it does, as abortion was seen as morally justified as a tragic but necessary way of dealing with desperate situations. Now that abortion has become routine for so many, what argument can be advanced to justify it? Whatever argument used, the normalisation of abortion reveals a society that does not value children or fertility, and which treats sexual relations as a recreational activity without consequences. Such societies do not last long, one fears.