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Artillery Row

The Gen Z abortion crisis

The sad causes and consequences of a rise in abortion among young people

The summer holiday is always a bit of a non-event when it comes to news. With Westminster on recess and chief editors retreating to their second homes, deputy staff members stretch out stories like used bits of cling film until their bosses return. Be it the Bibby Stockholm barge sitting in a Dorset dock, desperate attempts to show concrete crumbling before our eyes, or (my personal favourite) a man who reported a still yoga class to the police thinking a mass shooting had occurred; news teams will do anything to make static stories move. 

All the while there there have been significant developments over the summer that receive no attention. The most substantial of these was a discovery that half of all generation Z or “zoomer” pregnancies now end in abortion. The research conducted by Kevin Duffy, a former Global Director of Clinics Marie Stopes International, compared ONS data with abortion statistics between 2012 and 2022. He found that abortion rates among 15–26 year olds have increased from 34 per cent in 2012 to 50 per cent in 2022. For anyone who is concerned about the physical, and particularly mental health of Gen Z, this is concerning to say the least. It was only in July that Professor Colman’s finding — “81 per cent increased risk of mental health problems”  following abortion — reignited a public row, after the British Journal of Psychiatry refused (for a second time) to withdraw it. A month previous a large new US study found “[a] first pregnancy abortion, compared to a birth, is associated with significantly higher subsequent mental health services utilisation following the first pregnancy outcome”. The other side disagrees firmly, arguing that it is abortion restrictions that cause psychological harm, not the abortions themselves. 

However for a country that effectively has abortion on demand and yet continues to spend £1 in every £10 of its health care budget on mental health services, this conclusion seems unlikely. Read Lucy Burns’ book, Larger than an Orange, or talk with post abortive women, like Pauline, the founder of Post Abortive Support for Everyone, who was sectioned after her abortion in the 70s, and such conclusions seem preposterous. 

Yet the issues at stake here go far beyond mental health

Yet the issues at stake here go far beyond mental health. For anyone wrestling, as Duffy does, with the fact that British nationals have been under-replicating for well over two decades, this news is catastrophic. What’s the point in fixing the concrete in rural British schools if there won’t be any British children to enjoy them by 2050?

While Duffy’s findings (so far) have gone unnoticed, they feed into another debate that has caught the public’s attention. In an attempt to explain why last year’s abortion figures increased by 20 per cent in Scotland, the BBC claimed that “false” information was responsible. 

The “false” information in question was Tik Tok influencers discouraging the use of chemical contraceptives such as implants, coils and the pill. Of course, the Tik Tokers were not named, nor their statements assessed. Yet the BBC did at least interview one lady named Mariya, who confessed to experiencing crippling anxiety as a result of her  hormonal implant. Overall they said that the cause of these extra abortions was “not entirely clear”.

Meanwhile the UK’s two largest abortion providers, also seeking to explain the 17 per cent rise in UK wide statistics, rushed out press releases blaming the cost of living crisis and a lack of freely available contraceptives. Despite contradictions here, one broad conclusion can be drawn. 

Clearly, for whatever reason, zoomers are in a purgatory. On the one hand they either can’t get contraceptives before sex, or more likely don’t want them due to the impact they have on their bodies. On the other hand they are not ready to keep the babies that occur when latex and LARCs are left in the bedside drawer. Louise Perry’s excellent book, The Case Against the Sexual Revolution is giving more and more zoomers permission to say no, but tragically thousands are still falling through the cracks.

In a month or two’s time, probably starting in mid November, we will begin to hear the familiar rostrum of Christmas hits including the 1980’s classic, Feed the world. In its verses contain the lyrics: “There’s a world outside your window / And it’s a world of dread and fear / Where the only water flowing / Is the bitter sting of tears”. Even as your mind drifts to images of swollen bellied Africans, Ukrainian orphans, Russian widows, or perhaps those preparing for their first Christmas under canvas in Morocco or Libya, spare a thought also for Gen Z and their babies. Their plight defiles us all.

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