About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) provides an annual update on Termination of Pregnancy Statistics to December 2021. Data are derived from the Notifications of Abortion to the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland (CMO) under the Abortion (Scotland) Regulations 1991. Information is provided on a variety of characteristics including age, gestation, method of termination, NHS Board of residence and treatment, deprivation area, previous termination and Ground for termination. Some comparative data with England and Wales are included. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is also assessed.

Main points

  • The rate of terminations in Scotland in 2021 was 13.4 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 (13.5 in 2020). The number of terminations undertaken in 2021 was 13,758, a slight reduction from the 13,896 terminations undertaken in 2020.
  • There remained a strong association between the rate of termination and deprivation. The rate in the most deprived areas was almost twice as high as in the least deprived areas of Scotland. The highest termination rates per NHS Board and council area were NHS Tayside (16 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44) and Dundee City (18.7 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44) respectively.
  • Although the percentage of terminations under nine weeks' gestation has increased in each of the five deprivation areas in the last three years, there remains a gradient across social groups in early access of termination services with the rate lowest for those living in the most deprived areas.
  • Women living in remote rural localities continued to have the lowest rates of early access to termination services. In 2021, the rates for the two less remote categories were almost identical at 84.5% and 84.3%, compared with 77.6% in the most remote rural category.
  • In 2021, of the 13,758 total terminations 99% (13,676) were medical. Of these medical terminations 53% (7,310) were for both drugs taken at home, 29% (3,939) were for the second drug only taken at home, and 18% (2,427) were carried out in the clinic or hospital setting. Surgical terminations accounted for 0.6% (82) of total terminations in Scotland in 2021.
Image caption Percentage of terminations by termination method and approved place

Background

An abortion can be induced (therapeutic) or spontaneous (miscarriage). The focus of this report is on induced abortions only. Induced abortions are referred to as terminations of pregnancy to avoid confusion with spontaneous abortions (miscarriages). PHS is responsible for the collation of data derived from notifications of abortions on behalf of the CMO.

The next release of this publication will be 30 May 2023.

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Older versions of this publication

Versions of this publication released before 16 March 2020 may be found on the Data and Intelligence, Health Protection Scotland or Improving Health websites.

Last updated: 13 June 2022
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