CATHY O'LEARY, MEDICAL EDITOR, The West Australian June 9, 2011.
Used with permission.
WA has Australia's second highest rate of abortions compared with the number of pregnancies, new figures reveal.
A State Health Department report shows almost one in four pregnancies in WA in 2009 were terminated on purpose.
The review, which tracked the number of abortions from 2006 to 2009, also found more than half of all pregnancies in teenagers aged 15 to 19 ended in abortions.
In total, 8885 abortions were carried out in 2009, or one for every 50 WA women aged 15 to 44, with the highest rates in the Pilbara and South West.
They included 44 girls under 15 and 32 women over 45.
The report said 22.3 per cent of all pregnancies in WA ended in abortion, the highest so-called abortion proportion in Australia after NSW, which had a rate of 24.7 per cent in 2006.
"WA's proportion of pregnancies ending in abortion has been relatively high, around 22 per cent, since 2006, while the abortion proportion of other States was around 21, except for New South Wales," the review found.
"Abortion rates in WA are higher than those in some developed countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and Scotland, which have significantly lower rates.
"The groups with the highest proportion of terminated pregnancies were those at the extremes of the reproductive age, teenagers and women aged 45 and over."
Despite a popular perception that teenagers with unwanted pregnancies underwent the bulk of abortions, they made up less than one-fifth of the total, with the most terminations for women in their 20s, with an average age of 26.
The report said the vast majority of abortions were carried out in private clinics rather than public hospitals and performed in the first three months of pregnancy. Less than one per cent took place after 20 weeks, which required special approval from a medical panel.
Less than 3 per cent were carried out because of suspected birth defects such as spina bifida.
While abortion was available in WA before 1998, its legal status was unclear until amendments to the Abortion Act that year made it lawful to perform abortions subject to conditions.
© The West Australian