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Question for Department of Health

UIN HL3064, tabled on 7 November 2016

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what was the percentage increase in the number of abortions performed on the grounds of disability between 1986 and 2015.

Answered on

21 November 2016

There was a 64% increase in the number of abortions performed under Ground E (fetal abnormality) between 1986 (1,963) and 2015 (3,213).

The number of abortions performed under Ground E after 24 weeks gestation increased from 58 to 177 between 1991 and 2015, a 205% increase. This data should be seen in the context of the overall number of conceptions each year, of which there were 829,690 in England in 2014 (the latest year for which data are available).

The number of abortions for Down's syndrome was not recorded in 1991 as there was no diagnosis code specific to Down’s Syndrome in the International Classification of Diseases, therefore a comparison between 1991 and 2015 levels is not available. There are complex reasons why there has been an increase in abortion for fetal abnormality which reflect societal changes. The age at which women are giving birth is increasing and age is a known risk for some anomalies. Increasing levels of obesity may also be a factor. Screening techniques have also improved which means that anomalies can be more accurately detected.