By Eilish O'Regan, Health Correspondent of the Irish Independent
The highest number of abortions are among Irish women aged between 20 and 24. A report from the Crisis Pregnancy Agency shows that of 6,522 women who had abortions in one year, 2,258(34%) were in this bracket.
But the group most likely to seek an abortion are teenagers. The rate of abortion is higher relative to the number of teenage pregnancies. By international standards, the abortion rate is not high. However, the picture is not fully clear because of a lack of data.
The report showed that 916 of the abortions took place among girls under the age of 20. There has been a rise in the number of teenagers from Ireland ahving abortions in the last three decades. But the number of teenage girls having babies has not changed significantly in those 30 years.
Most teenage births here are among girls aged about 18 or 19. In 1973, there were 16.3 births per 1000 teenagers aged between 15 and 19. It peaked in 1980, and since then it has fallen again. The figure is now at around 16.8 per 1,000.
The agency's statistical report for 2005 gives an overview of current pregnancy and birth trends as well as how they are changing. Despite a steady decrease in the birth rate here over the past two decades, it is still the highest in the EU.
The average age for giving birth is higher here than in other European countries. The average age is here is 30 while it is 29 in Norway and 28 in the UK.
The proportion of births outside of marriage here has increased steadily since the 1970s. Nearly one third of births take place among women who are not married, compared to just 3.2% in 1973. However, many of these women are in stable relationships and do not conform to the traditional image of the unmarried mother.
The reprot also underlines the dramatic fall in babies who are given up for adoption here. In 1976, nearly four in every ten children born outside marriage was adopted. But this has now declined to just 0.5%. More women are choosing to keep their babies and adoption is 'no longer seen as an expected or real solution to crisis pregnancy'.