The number of legal abortions in Israel remained steady in 2012 at 20,063, significantly lower than a decade ago, despite the increase in the population.

This was according to a report the Health Ministry released on Tuesday tracking changes since 1990.

The number of illegal abortions – carried out without the involvement of abortion committees – has long been estimated as about equal to the number of approved ones.

There were 21,689 applications for legal abortions, and 97 percent were approved, but not all women with approval went through with it. The steady figure is in part a result of the fact that numerous women from the former Soviet Union who arrived in the 1990s, who in their former country used abortions for contraception, have passed their fertile period or learned to use contraceptives, and the number of immigrants from that region has declined significantly since then.

The reasons for approving abortions that the committees regard as legitimate are the women being under 18 or above 40; the fetus being the result of forbidden relations, outside marriage or incest; the fetus was defective; or giving birth would harm the physical or mental health of the mother.

Fully 54% of abortions in 2012 were carried out after approval for being from relations outside marriage.

The legal abortion rate here is lower than in most Western European countries – among both women under 20 and those 35 and higher. The abortion rate declined by a 10th compared to 2006 in all four categories justifying approval.

In 2012, 47% of the legal abortions were carried out in private hospitals or clinics, 31% in government hospitals, 17% in hospitals owned by Clalit Health Services and 5% in other public hospitals, compared to 59%, 25%, 13% and 5%, respectively, in 2000. The legal abortion rate in 2012 was 7.01 per 1,000 women of fertile age (171 per 1,000 live births).

The legal abortion rate declined by 21% compared to that in 1990 (largely because of the decline in numbers in former Soviet immigrant population of fertile age). The decline in abortions among these immigrants began in 2004.

Legal abortions are performed earlier in pregnancy today than in the past. Only 1% of abortions – some 240 – were carried out after the 23rd week of pregnancy. The abortion pill, Mifegyne, was used non-invasively to perform 5,194 abortions in 2012 – twice as many as in 2000.

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