Characteristics of women who present for abortion towards the end of the mid-trimester in Scotland: national audit 2013-2014

Eur J Contracept Reprod Health Care. 2016;21(2):183-8. doi: 10.3109/13625187.2015.1111326. Epub 2015 Nov 15.


Objectives: Women in Scotland who request an abortion (for non-medical reasons) within the legal gestational limit (up to 24 weeks) but beyond the gestational limit of all abortion facilities in Scotland (only up to 20 weeks) must travel to England if they wish to terminate the pregnancy. We wished to determine the number and characteristics of women presenting at ≥16 weeks' gestation for abortion, and compare the characteristics of those proceeding to abortion with those continuing the pregnancy.

Methods: Over a period of 12 months we conducted a prospective audit of women presenting at ≥16 weeks' gestation to abortion services throughout Scotland. The characteristics of women proceeding to abortion and those continuing the pregnancy were compared.

Results: A total of 267 women presented for abortion at ≥16 weeks' gestation. Their median age was 22 years (range 14 to 47 years); 231 were from deprived areas (86.5%), 128 (47.9%) already had a child and 73 (27.3%) had previously undergone abortion. A total of 175 women (65.5%) proceeded to abortion, locally (n = 125; 46.8%) or in England (50; 18.7%). Those at ≥20 weeks' gestation were statistically more likely to continue the pregnancy than those at earlier gestations (p < 0.001).

Conclusions: Relatively few women present for abortion in Scotland at ≥16 weeks' gestation. Those who are over 20 weeks' gestation and would need to travel to England for abortion are more likely to continue the pregnancy, suggesting that travel is a barrier to accessing legal abortion for this group of women. Provision of abortion services up to 24 weeks' gestation should be considered within Scotland.

Keywords: Abortion; Dilatation and evacuation; Mid-trimester; Termination of pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortion Applicants / statistics & numerical data*
  • Abortion, Induced / statistics & numerical data*
  • Abortion, Legal / statistics & numerical data
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • England
  • Female
  • Gestational Age*
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Parity
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Second*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Scotland
  • Social Class
  • Travel*
  • Young Adult