Live-in lovers have half of all abortions due to financial pressure on young couples who can’t afford to raise children
- Number of abortions performed on cohabitees has trebled in a decade
- Money worries and the fear that their partner could leave contribute to the woman’s decision
- Total number of abortions in England and Wales has fallen in the last year
By Steve Doughty, Social Affairs Correspondent PUBLISHED:11 July 2013
Half of all abortions are now carried out on unmarried women who are living with a partner, official figures revealed yesterday.
The share of terminations performed on cohabitees has trebled in a decade.
Last year cohabiting women had 86,764 abortions – 50 per cent of all abortions among women who were willing to give details of their relationships.
There were almost two abortions performed on cohabitees for every one undergone by a lone single woman, and three for every one for a married woman.
The fast rise in abortion among women in live-in relationships appears partly to result from financial pressure on couples in their 20s and 30s during the recession, who find themselves expecting a baby but can’t afford one.
Another factor could be women in co-habiting relationships fearing they could end up being left to bring up a baby on their own if their partner leaves them.
The figures may also in part reflect a willingness on the part of women to be open about their living arrangements, when in the past cohabitees having abortions would be more reluctant to admit they had a partner.
The number of women living in cohabiting relationships has doubled since 1996, according to estimates by the Office for National Statistics.
This landmark in the use of abortion comes at a time when research suggests a typical cohabitation lasts for just three years before it breaks up or the couple marry.
By contrast the average divorce comes after 11 years of marriage and an average marriage lasts for 32 years.
In 2002 only 17 per cent of women who had an abortion in England and Wales said they had a partner but were unmarried.
This went up to 31 per cent in 2005 and then to 42 per cent in 2007 and 2008 as the recession began to bite. The proportion of cohabitees who had terminations was 49 per cent in 2011, and hit the 50 per cent benchmark last year.
Overall the number of abortions in England and Wales dropped slightly in 2012 to 185,122, compared with 189,931 the previous year.
Alongside the 86,764 performed on unmarried women with partners, 44,923 were performed on lone single women, 28,828 on married women, and 10,387 on unmarried women who would not describe their relationships.
Alarmingly, the figures found there were 89 girls under 16 who had a second abortion, including one who went through her fourth termination.
The only age group among whom abortion numbers rose was women between 30 and 34, up from 29,579 in 2011 to 30,353 last year.
Pro-marriage pressure groups blamed the insecurity of cohabitation for pushing women towards abortion.
Harry Benson, of the Marriage Foundation, said: ‘This is what happens when large numbers of couples move in together and become trapped in unhappy cohabiting relationships.
‘The commitment of a couple who decide to marry and build a future is similar to the commitment involved in planning a baby. Cohabiting couples rarely have that commitment.’
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: ‘We are pleased to see that the number of abortions is falling but we know that more needs to be done. Abortions can be traumatic and stressful and should never be seen as a form of contraception
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