New data published by French statistical body the Directorate of Research, Studies, Evaluation and Statistics (DREES) show that in 2022, France had its highest level of abortions since 1990.
After two years of unusually low numbers of terminations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, abortions have been rising fast in France, as reported by Le Parisien.
According to researchers from DREES who conducted the study, that is part of a broader trend reflecting changing reproductive behaviour.
In 2022, there were 234,300 recorded voluntary abortions in France, an increase of 17,000 compared to the previous year and 7,000 more than in 2019.
Of these, 78 per cent were categorised as “medical abortions” – those carried out within the first seven weeks of pregnancy by taking prescribed medication under the guidance of a doctor or obstetrician.
France expanded the legal time period for abortions through a March 2022 law, extending the window from 12 to 14 weeks. DREES pointed out that the two-week extension alone “does not sufficiently account for the overall rise”.
Such late-term abortions – carried out between 12 and 14 weeks of pregnancy – represent “less than one-fifth of the increase observed compared to 2021”. In total, procedures in that timeframe account for just 1.5 per cent of all abortions performed in France.
The data also reveal that abortions are now most prevalent among women aged 20 to 29 years old, with a rate of 26.9 abortions per 1,000 women aged 20 to 24, an increase of 2.6 points compared to 2021. The rate was 28.6 abortions per 1,000 for those aged 25 to 29, a rise of 2.2 points.
There are significant regional variations in abortion rates, with metropolitan areas and overseas departments reporting the highest figures.
The researchers noted that the number of births in France has dropped in the past decade and they reported changes in contraceptive practices. That was exemplified by a substantial increase in the sale of emergency contraception products since 2017, with a notable spike in 2021 and 2022.
The report authors emphasised the need for further investigation to determine whether the rise in the use of the so-called morning-after pill is linked to a growing trend of foregoing daily hormonal contraception, or if it could be attributed to “accidental” pregnancies or a lack of condom use during sexual intercourse.
September 28 happens to be International Safe Abortion Day, with French and foreign institutions promoting the right to abortion as a form of health care.
📅 C'est la journée mondiale du droit à l'#avortement.
Quel délai légal ? Quelles modalités ? ⤵ pic.twitter.com/z9NjSYo2fe
— Ministère de la Santé et de la Prévention (@Sante_Gouv) September 28, 2023