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Swiss abortion rate slightly rises in 2019

doctor measuring amniotic sac
Most of the procedures in Switzerland happen during the first eight weeks of pregnancy. Pictured here is an amniotic sac. © Keystone / Christian Beutler

After years of decline, the number of abortions carried out in Switzerland have risen over the past two years. But by international comparison, the figures remain low.

In 2019, there were 9,182 abortions in the country (minus cantons Bern and Glarus, where statistics were not available) the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) reported on Thursday.

Per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44, this corresponds to a rate of 6.5 abortions per woman, the FSO said – up from a rate of 6.2 in 2017.

After a decade-long decline in the number of abortions, particularly among women between the ages of 15 and 19, the past two years have thus seen a slight reversal of the trend. Among this younger age group, the rate went from 3.3 to 3.5 per 1,000 between 2018 and 2019.

Most of the procedures happened in the first eight weeks of pregnancy, while 95% were done before the twelfth week. In 2019, 74% of abortions were carried out by taking medicine, while 26% were done by an operation.

Low numbers

Swiss law changed in 2002 to allow abortion on request in the first 12 weeks, an approach that was accepted by 72% of citizens in a national vote.

Rather than leading to a boom, however, rates of abortion fell and stabilised in the country, to levels far below those seen in Britain, France, or the US, for example.

Commenting on the 2017-2019 figures on Thursday, the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper quoted gynaecologists and doctors suggesting that the slight rise could be due to factors including a reluctance among some women to use contraceptive pills, the current popularity of “natural” lifestyles and methods, or the unreliability of apps designed to track menstrual cycles.


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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR