Comparisons of international data on late-term abortions
by Wm. Robert Johnston
last updated 6 March 2019
This page provides summary comparisons of international data on late-term abortions from the following pages (which also identify data sources):
In this review, late-term abortion refers to abortions at greater than about 20 weeks' gestation. A limited number of countries provide data on abortion by gestational age this late in pregnancy, and reported ranges of gestional vary between countries (and sometimes over time within a given country). Late-term abortion fraction is the fraction of abortions of known gestational age that are late-term.
The table below organizes countries by two criteria: the trends in late-term abortion fraction over the last 15 years and the level of late-term abortion fraction when last reported. Note that the relative levels of late-term abortion fraction are ambiguous in some cases since different ranges of gestational age are reported.
|level of late-term abortion fraction (latest data)|
(last 15 yrs)
| ||United States|| |
| ||Czech Republic|
1 Level for Sweden estimated based on reported fraction for >17 weeks' gestation.
2 Ireland data are for abortions occurring in the United Kingdom.
3 Estimates for France and Portugal based on Garne et al. (2010).
4 Estimates for India based on Dalvie (2008).
Noteably, the majority of countries for which data are available show an increase in late-term abortion fraction in recent years. We consider several possible explanations:
The increasing numbers of late-term abortions are accompanied in several countries (including Australia, Canada, Italy, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States) by increasing cases where the baby is delivered alive after the abortion and then either left to die or actively killed. This is why late-term abortions are increasingly identified as a human rights issue on behalf of the unborn child (ECLJ, 2014).
- Decrease in total abortions while late-term abortion numbers remain stable: For most of the countries in question, total abortions have been stable. In some cases where total abortions have declined (Australia and Ireland), absolute numbers of late-term abortions did increase in recent years.
- Changes in reporting: This is a likely issue for a few of the countries, but cannot account for most of the trends as reporting practices have been mostly stable.
- Policy changes that cause delays in access to abortion: This has been claimed by abortion lobbyists in the United States, even though late-term abortion fraction there has been stable during recent years when some states have placed limited restrictions on abortions. In the countries where late-term abortion fraction is increasing, however, abortion policies have been generally stable.
- Economic conditions that cause delays in access to abortion: Such changes cannot be ruled out for some countries, but cannot account for most of the trends--in part because abortions are provided by national health-care systems in several of the countries involved.
- Changes in reasons for seeking late-term abortions: For many of the countries in question, a large fraction of late-term abortions are in cases of fetal health issues. This is considered the most plausible explanation for the multi-country trends, that increasing numbers of abortions are being encouraged in cases of known or possible fetal health issues. Further, all ten countries with increasing late-term abortion fraction are countries with universal healthcare, in which case such abortions are incentivized to minimize costs to the health care system without regard to individual patients' needs (including the mothers as well as the unborn children).
Figure 1: Late-term abortion fraction trends, various countries
Figure 2: Late-term abortion fraction trends, Australia states and territories
Figure 3: Late-term abortion fraction trends, United Kingdom regions
Figure 4: Late-term abortion fraction trends, United States grouped states
- Dalvie, Suchitra S., 2008, "Second trimester abortions in India," Reproductive Health Matters, 16(31 Sup):37-45.
- European Center for Law and Justice, 2014, "The human rights of babies surviving late abortion," ECLJ, on line [https://eclj.org/abortion/hrc/the-human-rights-of-babies-surviving-late-abortion].
- Garne, E., B. Khoshnood, M. Loane, P. A. Boyd, N. Dolk, and the EUROCAT Working Group, 2010, "Termination of pregnancy for fetal anomaly after 23 weeks of gestation: A European register-based study," BJOG, 117:660-666.
- (also see source listings on pages linked at the top of this page)
© 2019 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 6 March 2019.
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