Legal abortions continue to decline despite rise in population

According to the law, legal abortions are approved for women whose health would be likely to be harmed by a pregnancy.

May 17, 2018 06:13
1 minute read.
Doctor holding syringe

Close up of female doctor holding syringe with injection (iilustrative). (photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)

The number of legal abortions in Israel has been consistently declining for more than 35 years, according to figures supplied by the Health Ministry.

In 2016 legal abortions per 1,000 fertile women declined 3% from the previous year. The number was 16% lower than in 2010, 30% less than 2000 and 34% less than 1990 – despite the significant rise in the population in the last nearly three decades.

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Trends in previous years have apparently been due to the significantly lower number of immigrant women from the former Soviet Union who used abortions as a form of birth control, as well as improved birth control methods available to the general population and possibly efforts by voluntary groups that discourage abortion.

There were a total of 17,990 legal abortions in Israel in 2016 (the latest year to be reported), compared to 18,246 in 2015. A total of 19,574 women applied to hospital abortion committees for an abortion in 2016 and 19,254 were approved, but 1,264 women decided not to go ahead with the abortion.

According to the law, legal abortions can be approved for one of four reasons: women whose health (both physical and mental) would likely be harmed by a pregnancy (20.3% in 2016); a physical defect in the fetus (also 20.3%); the woman’s age (under 17 or over 40 – 9%); and pregnancy outside of marriage (50.3%). The greatest decline was in girls under the age of 17.

According to the ministry report, about 40% of the abortions were carried out in private hospitals or clinics (a decline of 59% since 2000); 34% in government hospitals (an increase of 25% since then); 19% in hospitals owned by Clalit Health Service (a 13% increase); and 6% in voluntary hospitals in Jerusalem.

There was a decline in abortions in all age groups, as well among Jewish women with 13 or more years of education compared to the less educated. The rate of approval was higher among new immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia than among other Israeli women. The abortion rate was 4.6 times higher in Ethiopian immigrant women than in the general population.

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