30/11/2011 01:26 GMT | Updated 29/01/2012 05:12 GMT

Health: Liberal Abortion Laws Do Not Increase Termination Rates, Study Finds

Countries with restricted access to abortion, including the UK, do not have lower termination rates than those which are more liberal, a new study has suggested.

Experts examined data for 27 EU countries and found no overall difference between termination rates for those allowing women abortions on request compared with those with certain conditions.

Terminations are illegal in Ireland and Malta, and Poland allows them for foetal abnormality, serious maternal health risks and for pregnancies resulting from reported rape.

Elsewhere in the EU, abortion is allowed under certain conditions.

Luxembourg permits terminations on physical and mental health grounds while the UK, Cyprus, Finland also include "socio-economic indications", the study said.

In the UK, abortions are allowed on certain grounds, including that continuing with the pregnancy would be a greater risk to the woman's life, physical or mental health than ending the pregnancy, continuing would be more of a risk to the physical or mental health of any of the woman's existing children and there is a real risk the child would have a serious physical or mental disability.

In all other EU member states, terminations can be performed in early pregnancy on a woman's request.

The study - published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology - found that countries which allowed termination on request had an abortion rate of 11 per 1,000 women, with a country variation from six to 25 per 1,000 women.

Those that restricted access had a very similar rate (12.3 per 1,000 women, with a country variation from nine to 14 per 1,000 women).

The lowest figures were reported in Germany and Greece (about six per 1,000 women of reproductive age), and in Belgium, the Netherlands and Portugal (about 7.5 per 1,000). Three countries - Bulgaria, Romania and Estonia - had a rate of 20 or more per 1,000.