Abortions in Europe on the rise


European Union


A pro-life organisation protests at an abortion clinic in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Photo RD, Anton Dommerholt

Abortion rates in the Netherlands are almost higher than ever. In other parts of Europe, it is also on the rise. Experts disagree on its cause.

It has been a long time since the abortion rate in the Netherlands was so high. Only in 1985 and 1986 was the number of children killed in the mother's womb higher. But no one seems sure of the cause.

However, it is a fact that more and more women do not want to carry their pregnancies to term. Daphne Latour also sees this. She is a policy officer at Fiom, an expert centre in the field of unwanted pregnancy. "We see an increase in the number of choice counselling sessions we conduct," she says to the Dutch Christian daily Reformatorisch Dagblad.

In these sessions, a counsellor discusses with the pregnant woman and the father the various options available: raising the child herself, foster care, adoption or an abortion. Fiom is not opposed to the latter option. "We think it's important that women get support and understanding from the environment and that people don't judge," Latour says. "That helps the woman to make an informed and voluntary choice."


Latour sees several possible explanations for why so many women had their children removed last year: financial worries, inadequate housing or concern about major world problems, such as the war in Ukraine and the climate crisis. "People wonder if it is wise to bring a child into the world at this time."

The increase in abortions in 2022, by as much as 15 per cent, may also indicate a catch-up after the pandemic, Latour believes. "During the pandemic, on the contrary, we saw fewer abortions. Possibly there were fewer unintended pregnancies then, or people were making different choices."

She sees another explanation as well: more and more women are using natural methods of contraception. These are less reliable than the birth control pill or condom and may lead more often to an unwanted pregnancy. The Dutch Society of Abortion Physicians (NGvA) also detects this trend. Abortion clinics are increasingly seeing young women who become unplanned pregnant after using natural contraceptives. The popularity of natural contraceptives seems to be due in part to influencers on social media.


However, the trend of rising abortion rates does not appear to be limited to the Netherlands, with one of Europe's most liberal abortion laws. Germany has also seen similar growth. There, some 104,000 children were killed, 10 per cent more than in 2021. The increase appears to be continuing, as in the second quarter of 2023, the number of abortions was already 4.5 per cent higher than in the same period a year earlier.

The number of abortions is also on the rise in France. Compared to 2021, it rose 7.8 per cent (17,000 children) to 234,300. French authorities link.) this to the pandemic because of two years of "exceptional decline." But they see the number of abortions not only returning to previous levels but exceeding them. "It is in the age group of 20 to 29 years that abortions remain most frequent."



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