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Abortion statistics, England and Wales: 2004

  • Document type:
  • Author:
    Government Statistical Service for the Department of Health
  • Published date:
    27 July 2005
  • Primary audience:
  • Product number:
    ISBN 1 84182 957 9
  • Gateway reference:
  • Series number:
    Bulletin 2005/11
  • Pages:
  • Copyright holder:
    Crown copyright

This bulletin summarises information from the abortion notification forms returned to the Chief Medical Officers of England and Wales in respect of abortions carried out in England and Wales in 2004.

Key facts

In 2004, for women resident in England and Wales:

  • the total number of abortions was 185,400, compared with 181,600 in 2003, a rise of 2.1%
  • the age-standardised abortion rate was 17.8 per 1,000 resident women aged 15-44 (17.5 in 2003)
  • the abortion rate was highest, at 31.9 per 1000, for women in the 18-19 and 20-24 age groups
  • the under-16 abortion rate was 3.7 compared with 3.9 in 2003. The under-18 rate was 17.8 compared with 18.2 in 2003
  • 82% of abortions were funded by the NHS; of these, just over half (51%) took place in the independent sector under NHS contract
  • 88% of abortions were carried out at under 13 weeks gestation; 60% were at under 10 weeks
  • medical abortions accounted for 19% of the total compared with 17% in 2003
  • 1,900 abortions (1%) were under ground E, risk that the child would be born handicapped


  • in 2004 there were 8,760 abortions for nonresidents carried out in hospitals and clinics in England and Wales (9,100 in 2003)

In using and releasing health statistics there is a risk, generally with small numbers, of identifying individuals. To address this, the Department of Health asked the National Statistician to provide it with guidelines for interpreting the National Statistics Code of Practice and associated protocols in the handling of health statistics across the health community, in a way that balances data confidentiality risks with the public interest in the use of the figures. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) have published a report on disclosure guidance for abortion statistics and a further report giving guidance for all health statistics will be published in the Autumn of 2005. The report for abortions statistics can be found on the ONS website.

The 2004 Abortion Statistics bulletin applies the conclusions of the ONS disclosure review and guidance for abortion statistics. The guidance provides details on how to identify cells within tabulated statistics where the risks of a breach of confidentiality are unacceptable ("unsafe cells"). It then describes methods for reducing these risks.

For the bulletin, the risks identified have been reduced largely by redesigning tables. However, where table redesign proved to be impossible then suppression was applied to cells with fewer than 5 cases at National level or fewer than 10 cases at sub-national levelĀ  and for highly sensitive variables such as gestation weeks by medical grounds. The same principles were also applied to tables showing rates and percentages.

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