Slight rise in abortion rates

The number of induced abortions, which had been falling since 2014, rose slightly in 2017 (Vilain, 2018). The number recorded was 216,700 (202,919 for metropolitan France), up from 214,800 in 2016 but lower than those in 2015 (218,097), 2014 (227,038), and 2013 (229,021). Of the 2017 total, 202,919 abortions concerned women resident in metropolitan France. The drop in the number of childbearing-age women did not lead to fewer abortions in 2017, although there were fewer among women under the age of 25.

Number of induced abortions by age group (years), 1990 to 2017

Overall, the abortion trend has been following a similar curve to the total fertility rate but at a level four times lower (Mazuy et al., 2015; Vilain, 2018). The 2017 increase in abortions concerned women in the 30–34 and 35–39 age groups; abortions before age 20 continued to fall. The trend towards abortions at younger ages observed since the late 1990s seems to have stopped.

Seasonal variations in abortions

The monthly breakdown of the year’s abortions gives an average of about 8% each month (Figure). Broken down by place, similar numbers of abortions are carried out in hospitals and elsewhere*.
The slight difference between the curves can be explained by the fact that all non-hospital abortions are medical abortions and therefore performed, on average, earlier in the pregnancy.

Monthly distribution of abortions by establishment type, 2017

There are more abortions early in the year, corresponding to conceptions occurring late in the previous year and at the New Year peak (Régnier-Loilier, 2010 ; Régnier-Loilier and Rohrbasser, 2011). Numbers drop in April, which is a holiday period. The steep rise in June may correspond to a tendency to hasten recourse to abortion before the summer holidays. The September increase can similarly be interpreted as terminating July and August pregnancies that were not dealt with during the summer holiday period. The difficulty getting an abortion in summer is one point raised by the national abortion data committee in its report (Commission IVG, 2016). Difficulties in getting abortions and in finding trained and practised staff to perform them under good conditions are recurrent problems in most countries (Guillaume and Rossier, 2018). In France, this was particularly the case in 2018 in the south of Sarthe, where one hospital could not perform abortions for nine months of the year. This instance highlighted the difficulties inherent in staff shortages and the way local supply can be impeded when medical staff use the conscience clause.

*Two types of data are available: those collected via the Programme de médicalisation des systèmes d’information (PMSI, information system medicalization programme) for abortions in hospital, and the number of abortion expenses reimbursed (medical fees and drugs) for medical abortions performed outside hospital, supplied by the health insurance body for salaried employees (Caisse nationale d’assurance maladie des travailleurs salariés, CNAM-TS) from their own data since 2005 and from health centres and family planning and family education centres since 2009, by the farmers’ health insurance body Mutualité Sociale Agricole (MSA) and by the self-employed health insurance system since 2010 (Vilain, 2018).

Source: Didier Breton, Magali Barbieri, Hippolyte d’Albis, Magali Mazuy, 2019, Recent Demographic Developments in France: Seasonal Patterns of Births, Deaths, Unions, and Migration, Population 2018-4.

Contacts: Didier Breton, Magali Barbieri, Hippolyte d’Albis, Magali Mazuy

Online: June 2019