All the data collected over many years show that the earlier the pregnancy occurs, the more it risks being terminated by abortion.
The 1997 information bulletin of the Institut National d’Etudes Demographiques reported a study comparing 1980 and 1989 for adolescents.
With data expressed as abortions per 100 conceptions, in 1980 and 1989, respectively, rates were 59.9 and 61.9% for 14- and 15-year-old girls, and 44.9 and 50.4% for 16- and 17-year-olds.
These percentages have remained relatively stable. In Seine-Saint-Denis, the abortion rate for women under 20 years old was 53.1% in 1996, with the national rate estimated at 50.8%. The rates have also remained stable for the general population, with women 14–44 years old undergoing 22.8% abortions in 1980 and 20% in 1989.
Overall, one pregnancy in four ends in abortion in France. These rates have remained relatively stable and are subjected to mandatory reporting in the context of national data collection.
Two comments can be made: The younger the girl the greater the chance the pregnancy will be terminated by abortion. Also, according to official data, abortion rates have remained stable, at around 220,000 per year. These observations highlight the failure of contraception campaigns and the commercialization of emergency ‘morning-after’ contraception readily accessible because it is sold over the counter in pharmacies.
In 1997, the Institut National d’Etudes Demographiques also reported the results of a second inquiry comparing the outcomes of pregnancies in 1989 and 1991 as a function of the age of the adolescent (table 1). Again, the younger the teenager, the more likely the pregnancy would be terminated.
However, a transition period was noted, around 16 years, during which many more pregnancies were allowed to continue.
The percentage of teenage pregnancies that end in abortion has been declining since 1987, as increasing numbers of pregnant adolescents have chosen to give birth.
For the inquiry conducted in Seine-Saint-Denis, we tried to identify the parameters characteristic of those adolescents resorting to abortion: (1) threefourths of them are French citizens (who represent only one-fourth of the teenagers who give birth) as opposed to foreigners or those of foreign ancestry; (2) only 58% are still in school, few are working, 1 out of 3 is totally inactive (no work, without qualifications and often with no plans); (3) 10% of them grew up in institutions where they had been placed as children with no family; (4) 5% aborted after having been raped, and, finally, and (5) 12% of them were ‘repeaters’. This latter number is particularly disquieting when one realizes that only 800,000 doses of emergency contraception have been sold since its commercialization 2.5 years earlier in May 1999. Furthermore, it speaks eloquently of the inadequacy of preventing unwanted pregnancies. It is possible that the messages for the prevention of AIDS and the campaigns promoting the use of condoms have had a perverse effect on the use of contraception. Indeed, we must mobilize our efforts to train teachers so that they can actively participate and transmit the desired information, and to initiate sex-education classes in junior and senior high schools, like those conducted in The Netherlands.
Intrapersonal factors, such as cognitive level, poor self-esteem, depression, substance abuse, history of sexual abuse, and/or school failure, poor school performance or dropping out, have all been associated with adolescent pregnancy.
Revision date: June 14, 2011
Last revised: by Janet A. Staessen, MD, PhD