According to official statistics last year the number of abortions carried out in Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands, was the lowest since the procedure was legalised there 18 years ago. 163 abortions were carried out on the Island which is nearly half the number when the Termination of Pregnancy Law was passed in 1997.
The reduction is not isolated. The Jersey Evening Post reports it represents a ten per cent drop from 2013 and 30 per cent from 2012.
Although according to 2011 census results the population of the Island is only about 98,000, the reduction and proportion of abortions in Jersey is instructive. The report from the Health & Social Services Department, showed that Jersey’s abortion rate of 8.3 operations per 1,000 women was significantly lower than the 16.5 of England & Wales and the 11.0 of Scotland. It is possible to travel to England & Wales from Jersey to have an abortion, but that cannot account for the discrepancy as there were only five recorded examples of that in 2014.
The statistics also record a reduction in Jersey’s under 18-year-old abortion rate – 4.8 operations per 1,000 girls was recorded in 2013, just three per 1,000 in 2014. By way of comparison England & Wales recorded 11.1 per 1,000 under 18-year-olds in 2014.
In 2014, 37 per cent of women in Jersey undergoing abortions had had one or more previous terminations. This is of interest because in order to have an abortion up to 12 weeks into the pregnancy, two doctors must agree it is causing you distress. Abortion is legal up to 24 weeks if the foetus has a severe incurable problem or the mother’s life is in danger. The proportion has steadily increased over recent years with the latest being the same as that seen for England & Wales. Meanwhile, half of all abortions were carried out for single women, with 28 per cent carried out on co-habiting women and 18 per cent carried out for married women.
An explanation for the lower abortion rates were given in an official statement:
“In Jersey we have very low teenage conception rates so, consequently there will be fewer terminations for teenagers. There tend to be fewer teenage conceptions in higher socio-economic areas such as Jersey – the UK has a more mixed socio-economic profile so will be higher.
“The recently published Jersey Schools Survey: A Picture of Health showed that sex education lessons were the main source of information about sex [and] 70% [of students] said they would have the confidence to say no to sex [and] over 75% of 14-15 year olds knew where to get free condoms.”