Decline in abortions among those under 25, a still unexplained phenomenon

The abortion rate is down. In 2021, 223,300 abortions were recorded in France. A stable volume compared to 2020, but down from 2019, when 232,200 abortions were performed. This decrease is particularly observed among women under 25, where the use of abortion is decreasing for the second consecutive year.

Are there factors explaining this trend? “We lack data, for lack of hindsight, but we can make assumptions”, cautiously advances Magalie Mazuy, researcher at the National Institute for Demographic Studies (INED). The main one is that of a “declining designs” in this age group, a phenomenon already observed in 2020.

The Covid, at the origin of the decrease in the number of pregnancies

Covid and health restrictions have led to a drop in the number of pregnancies among young women, and therefore abortions when these are unwanted. The phenomenon is explained by “the geographical distance of the partners” (especially the youngest, confined to their families), “an overload of activities due to the strong mobilization of women in the care professions and/or in the care of young children due to the closure of schools and nurseries”analyzed the INED at the time.

It was especially true “during the first strict confinement”, specifies Magalie Mazuy, who adds that the health and social crisis has also caused ” a stronguncertainty about the future.

Effects that “would still be felt today”to a lesser extent, suggests the demographer. “We don’t project ourselves into the future, so we wait before projecting ourselves as a couple. And for those who are in a relationship, we can assume that they have been more vigilant. » In 2016, the date of the last Health Barometer conducted by Public Health France*, only 4.3% of women aged 20 to 29 did not use any means of contraception.

Easy access to emergency contraception

Finally, another hypothesis exposed: “increased use of emergency contraception”, continues the researcher. In 2016, again in the Health Barometer, women under 30 were the main users of this famous “morning after pill” in the event of risky intercourse.

Since, “its access has also been facilitated by the government, which has made it available without a prescription or even free for minors and adult students, recalls Magalie Mazuy. What to have recourse to it more easily in case of doubt. This can have an effect, at the margin. »

A hypothesis that remains to be clarified, however, the rate of abortion among 20-24 year olds being, after a few years of decline between 2014 and 2017, increased in 2018 and 2019, when the “morning after pill” was already available. .

Is the decline observed over the past two years a fundamental movement or a contextual phenomenon? “Impossible to say at the moment”, insists Magalie Mazuy, who points out that the abortion rate has, on the other hand, “slightly increased among those over 30”.


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