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Australian Abortion Statistics

Facts and figures relating to the frequency of abortion in Australia.

Australian Abortion Statistics: Facts and figures relating to the frequency of abortion in Australia.

There are only two states in the Commonwealth of Australia that collect and publish abortion data. They are Western Australia (WA) and South Australia (SA). These states make up approximately 18% of Australia’s population. Western Australia has been reporting abortion statistics since 1999; South Australia has been reporting since 1970. South Australia reports new abortion data annually; Western Australia only releases new data every 3-5 years. The following statistics have been gleaned from the Government of South Australia and the Government of Western Australia, and combined with available birth data,1 to provide an overview of the frequency and demography of abortion in Australia.

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ANNUAL ABORTION STATISTICS

  • In 2014, an estimated 70,000-73,000 abortions took place in Australia. This numerical range was extrapolated from the reported abortion total of South Australia, based upon its share of Australia’s population and live births.*

  • In 2012, an estimated 73,000-76,000 abortions took place in Australia. This numerical range was extrapolated from the reported abortion total of South Australia and Western Australia, based upon their share of Australia’s population and live births.**

*In 2014, South Australia represented 7.1% of Australia’s population and 6.9% of its live births. We also adjusted for the absence of Western Australia data. Historically, when abortion totals are extrapolated from South Australia and Western Australia data, the tally is 5-11% higher than when extrapolating from South Australia data alone.
**In 2012, South Australia represented 7.2% of Australia’s population and 6.6% of its live births; Western Australia represented 10.7% of Australia’s population and 10.8% of its live births.

 

ANNUAL ABORTION STATISTICS (South Australia)

  • In 2014, approximately 4,650 abortions took place in South Australia, down from 4,681 in 2013, 4,765 in 2012, and 5,010 in 2011.
  • Between 1970 and 2014, approximately 200,000 abortions occurred in South Australia.
  • Annual abortion totals by selected years:
    2014 2010 2005 2000 1995 1990 1985 1980 1975 1970
    4,650 5,048 4,715 5,580 5,475 4,463 4,079 4,081 3,000 1,440
    2014 2010 2005 2000 1995
    4,650 5,048 4,715 5,580 5,475
    1990 1985 1980 1975 1970
    4,463 4,079 4,081 3,000 1,440
  • Approximately 18.3% of all pregnancies in South Australia (excluding spontaneous miscarriages) currently end in abortion.
  • Total annual abortions in South Australia have increased 223% since 1970, when abortion became legal in the state. The total number of annual abortions more than doubled between 1970 and 1973. There were 5,679 abortions reported in 1999, which is the highest total on record.

ANNUAL ABORTION STATISTICS (Western Australia)

  • In 2012, approximately 8,429 abortions took place in Western Australia, down from 8,683 in 2011, 8,415 in 2010, and 8,885 in 2009.
  • Annual abortion totals by selected years:
    2012 2010 2008 2006 2004 2002 2000
    8,429 8,415 8,668 8,336 7,869 8,262 8,337
    2012 2010 2008 2006
    8,429 8,415 8,668 8,336
    2004 2002 2000
    7,869 8,262 8,337
  • Approximately 20.1% of all pregnancies in South Australia (excluding spontaneous miscarriages) currently end in abortion.
  • There were 8,885 abortions reported in 2009, which is the highest total on record.

WHO HAS ABORTIONS?

  • In both South Australia and Western Australia, women in their 20s account for the majority of abortions; women aged 20-24 have the highest abortion rate.
  • In South Australia, adolescents under 16 years obtained less than 1% of all 2014 abortions; women aged 16–19 years accounted for 11.3%.

  • Percentage of 2014 Reported Abortions by Age of Mother (South Australia):
    <16 years 16–17 years 18–19 years 20–24 years 25–29 years 30–34 years 35+ years
    0.6% 3.4% 7.9% 27% 24.4% 19.4% 17.3%
    <16 years 16–17 years 18–19 years 20–24 years
    0.6% 3.4% 7.9% 27%
    25–29 years 30–34 years 35+ years
    24.4% 19.4% 17.3%
  • In Western Australia, adolescents under 15 years obtained less than 1% of all 2012 abortions; women aged 15–19 years accounted for 13%.

  • Percentage of 2012 Reported Abortions by Age of Mother (Western Australia):
    <15 years 15–19 years 20–24 years 25–29 years 30–34 years 35–39 years 40+ years
    0.2% 13% 29.4% 23.8% 16.9% 11% 5.6%
    <15 years 15–19 years 20–24 years 25–29 years
    0.2% 13% 29.4% 23.8%
    30–34 years 35–39 years 40+ years
    16.9% 11% 5.6%
  • In South Australia, women with no prior abortions accounted for 64% of all abortions in 2014.

  • Metropolitan residents account for 81.1% of all abortions in South Australia. 

  • In Western Australia, the Aboriginal abortion rate is 12.2; the non-Aboriginal abortion rate is 17.6*

    *The abortion rate is the number of abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44.

WHY ARE ABORTIONS PERFORMED?

In South Australia, abortion is legal when performed in a prescribed hospital by an authorized medical practitioner on a woman who has been a state resident for at least two months. Prior to the abortion, two medical practitioners must examine the woman and conclude that the continuation of pregnancy would be a greater risk to the woman's physical or mental health than abortion. Except to save the life of the mother, abortion cannot be performed after 28 weeks.

  • In South Australia, 95.4% of all abortions are elective. They are performed for "mental health" reasons; 3.7% owe to fetal abnormality and 0.7% are performed for medical reasons.

In Western Australia, abortion is legal for any reason through 20 weeks if performed by a medical practitioner. Past 20 weeks, abortion must be approved by an appointed medical panel.

  • In Western Australia, 2.6% of abortions owe to fetal abnormality.

WHEN DO ABORTIONS OCCUR?

  • In South Australia, approximately 91% of all 2014 abortions happened during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy; 2.3% happened at 20 weeks or later.
  • In Western Australia, approximately 5.2% of all 2012 abortions occurred between 14-20 weeks.

  • Percentage of 2012 Reported Abortions by Weeks of Gestation* (Western Australia):
    ≤8 wks 9-11 wks 12-13 wks 14-15 wks 16-17 wks 18-19 wks ≥20 wks
    72.9% 17.1% 4.3% 2.6% 1.4% 1.2% 0.6%
    ≤8 wks 9-11 wks 12-13 wks 14-15 wks
    72.9% 17.1% 4.3% 2.6%
    16-17 wks 18-19 wks ≥20 wks
    1.4% 1.2% 0.6%

    *Gestational weeks are measured from the first day of the woman's last menstruation and not from the day of conception. Though it does not provide an accurate fetal age (which is roughly 2 weeks less than the gestational age), it is the simplest way for an OB/GYN to age a pregnancy since the day of conception is often not known. Hence, if an abortion occurs at 8 weeks gestation, it is actually aborting a 6 week embryo. The images on our Prenatal Development and Abortion Pictures pages are more precisely captioned with fetal ages in accordance with standard teaching texts on prenatal development.

HOW ARE ABORTIONS PERFORMED?

  • In South Australia, 67.2% of all 2014 abortions were performed by vacuum aspiration or dilation and curettage.
  • In Western Australia, 66.1% of all 2012 abortions were performed by vacuum aspiration. Medical abortions made up 11.1% and combination abortions (vacuum and medical) accounted for 20.1%
  • In South Australia, 97% of all abortions are performed in public hospitals.
  • In Western Australia, 92.6% of all abortions are performed in private day hospitals.

This page was last updated on April 19, 2017. To cite this page in a research paper, visit: "Citing Abort73 as a Source."

    Footnotes

  1. Birth and population statistics come from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

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