Graph: Abortion Rate in EU Countries

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Annual abortion rate per 1000 women aged 15-49 in 14 European countries: an interactive graph.
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Pubblicato: 22/03/22

    The annual abortion rates (X) shown in the graph are coerent with the following formula:

(induced abortions / women aged 15-49) × 1000 = X

Annual data on induced abortions and annual data on women aged 15-49 were firstly extrapolated from World Organization of Health (WHO) datasets1. Then, using data from national governments and/or non-governmental organizations, they were refined and updated. Each data was cross-referenced with various sources to ensure its accuracy. The sole exceptions are Austria and Luxembourg, whose data were acquired from a single source and could not be compared (WHO for Austria, planning familial for Luxembourg).

   It was chosen to examine the rates of abortion in 14 EU countries and not to include ex-communist States since their abortion legislation has developed trough a different historical path. Please keep in mind that the abortion rate cannot represent an accurate scenario of the abortion trend on its own, as it can be influenced by population fertility changes.

In terms of annual abortion rates, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain form a group of their own. The values in this group ranged from a high of 5,7 (Germany) to a low of 4,2 (Belgium) in 1993. The same group of countries had a high of 9,6 (Spain) and a low of 6,0 (Germany) in 2019. However, unlike other countries, Spain and Greece show a substantial increase in the abortion rate. Abortion rates had changed from 3,8 (Spain) and 4,2 (Greece) in 1990 to 8,7 (Spain) and 9 (Greece) in 2015.

   With induced abortion becoming legal in late 2018, Ireland appears to be in the process of aligning its trends with those of the majority of the European countries examined, having recorded a 5,6 abortion rate in 2020. According to the limited data available, Luxembourg and Austria seem to have lower abortion rates than the rest of Europe.

   France shows an independent trend: it has experienced a slight —but constant— increase in the abortion rate per 1000 women since 1990. In fact, the abortion rate was 13,9 in 1990 and it reaches 15,7 in 2019 (while the lowest point was 12,3 in 1995). Similarly, the Swedish abortion rate followed a distinct pattern from the rest of the EU, with at least three significant fluctuations between 1975 and 2003 (the highest point was 18,6 in 1988 and 1989, while the lowest 15,6 in 1995 and 1999).

   Analyzing the period between 1989 and 1996, it appears that 5 countries (Sweden, France, Germany, Finland, Italy) have reached the lowest abortion rate during the same year, i.e. in 1995, while another (Denmark) has reached it in 1994.

   The graph shows that annual abortion rates in Denmark, Finland, and Italy are similar. All of them exhibit a consistent drop in abortion rates  in the last forty years (with the exception of Finland, which had an increase of 7,1% in 2010s compared to the previous decade). This similarity has been noticed in 2001 by Istituto Superiore di Sanità (Italian National Institute of Health)2.

   However, the  analysis of the current abortion ratio  (the number of induced abortions per 100 live births) debunks this apparent similarity3.

   Italy's annual abortion ratio has reduced by 26,8% between 2005 and 2018, while Finland and Denmark have seen drops of 4,3% and 4,1%, respectively.  As a result, it can be argued that, while abortion rates are lower in Nordic countries due to fewer pregnacies, they are lower in Italy due to fewer pregnancies ending in abortion.


2 A. Spinelli, M. Grandolfo, Abortion in Italy, April 2001;

3 leTrattative, Abortion ratio for Denmark, Finland, Italy, Sweden. Please note that, to facilitate the comparison with the abortion rate, the abortion ratio in the linked table is per 1000 live births, and not per 100 live births;

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