According to government statistics, older women in Britain are having abortions at an increasingly higher rate than in recent years. Statistics show a 30 percent increase in women 40 and over.
The short-term explanation is that far more of today’s women are sexually active with various partners. More women are divorcing and unwilling to give up their sex lives as opposed to the previous generations of women who might not have engaged in casual sex. There are more single women in their 40s that are actively dating as a result of getting divorced and re-entering the dating scene.
That all makes sense. But is there more to these findings than just what’s on the surface?
The Telelgraph reports that 8,179 women aged 40 and over terminated pregnancies last year – including more than 650 women above the age of 45, and 21 women aged 50 and over.
Some of these numbers do include women who wanted to become pregnant but were found to have a high chance of abnormalities, including Down syndrome, which has a higher risk with increased age. These women decided to terminate but they are not believed to have contributed to the high number of abortions since the vast majority were performed within the first twelve weeks which is typically before those specific screening tests are performed. So what is responsible for the rise besides divorce rates?
Some of it may be the large number of women who stop taking birth control once they reach a certain age. Thinking they are naturally less fertile than they were in their 20s, they don’t believe they will become pregnant. In fact, “studies have established that men and women in their 30s and 40s are less likely than teenagers to practice safe sex,” reports The Telegraph. It is reported that almost 70 percent of teens aged 16 and 19 use a condom when having sex with a new partner, while less than 35 percent of those aged 35-44, according to a study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.
Yet the most fascinating aspect of these statistics has to be the degree to which women have undergone massive social change in the past couple of decades. British politician, Minister of State for Universities and Science, and a Member of Parliament David Willetts has his own perspective. He believes that a “Bridget Jones generation of well-educated young women who cannot find a suitable match was fueling the collapse of the family.” He has also said that with some many women putting their career first, men are no longer given the opportunity to “bring home the bacon”, which was bad for families.
While his statements are nonsensical, not to mention offensive, there might be something behind them. It’s true that more women today are focusing on their education, pursuing higher degrees, and then considering a lifelong partner and possibly marriage and babies. In other words, they are doing what men do and have always done. It’s a positive progression that today’s girls are exploring what their career might be rather than who their husband will be.
The reality is that it is a combination of all these above factors that are responsible for the increased number of abortions in older women, and each one of them on one level or another speaks to social change.
Are you surprised that older women are having more abortions? What hypothesis do you think is the most accurate behind the increase?
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