More than one-quarter of the 20,378 legal abortions allowed in 2004 were carried out using the abortion pill Mifegyne rather than by a surgical procedure, according the Health Ministry's annual report on legal abortions released on Sunday. The abortion pill is generally regarded as much safer for women than surgical intervention and it has received the approval of the rabbinical establishment as well. The vast majority of the 21,685 women who applied for a legal abortion received approval. In fact, 21,286 were approved but nearly 400 did not make use of the authorization. The report does not make any mention of illegal abortions carried out by gynecologists, but it has long been estimated that there are as many illegal abortions as legal ones. The number of legal abortions has been steady since the mid-1990s despite the growth in the national population. More than half of the abortions were covered by the section of the Abortion Law allowing for termination of pregnancy if the fetus results from illegal relations according to the criminal law, incest or outside of marriage. A fifth of pregnancies were terminated because continuation would have endangered the life of the woman or have caused her physical or mental harm; a similar number were due to the fetus being physically or mentally defective; and about 10 percent were due to the mother being younger than 17 or over the age of 40. The law allows for abortion for women under 18 and over 40, for women not married to the father, in cases when the fetus suffers from a disorder, or when it is the result of an illegal union. Fifty-seven percent of all legal abortions involved fetuses younger than seven weeks, and a third were in the gestation period between eight and 12 weeks. In full, 278 abortions were late, coming after the 23rd week of gestation, as compared to 222 in 2000 and 188 in 2003. Most of these were covered by the legal section concerning defective fetuses. Forty-five percent of the abortions were approved in private hospitals (compared with 59% in 2000), 29% in government hospitals (25%), 19% in Clalit Health Services hospitals (13%), and the remainder in voluntary public hospitals in Jerusalem (3%).