‘This is a crisis’: 6 in 10 women who had abortion say childcare costs put them off pregnancy

The campaigner notes data shows birth rates are higher in nations which permit women to juggle looking after their children with their job (PA )
The campaigner notes data shows birth rates are higher in nations which permit women to juggle looking after their children with their job (PA )

Six in 10 women who have had an abortion say the cost of childcare in the UK put them off pregnancy, according to a new study.

A report, carried out by campaign group Pregnant then Screwed, found almost one in five women said childcare costs were the main reason they decided to terminate a pregnancy.

Researchers polled 1,630 women who had an abortion in the last five years and discovered the situation was far starker for Black women. Three in four Black women said childcare costs were behind their decision to have an abortion, while the same proportion of single parents said the same.

It comes after the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) found the UK had one of the most expensive childcare systems in the world.

Joeli Brearley, Pregnant then Screwed’s founder, said: “Childcare costs are pushing families into poverty and forcing women to terminate wanted pregnancies.

“This is a crisis and the government’s response has been wholly inadequate. The UK birth rate has hit a record low, a lack of births means a lack of future workers, which poses enormous challenges for our future economy.”

The campaigner noted data shows birth rates are higher in nations which permit women to juggle looking after their children with their job.

One woman told researchers it was “heartbreaking” for her to go through an abortion mainly because she could not afford childcare costs.

“If I had continued my pregnancy of a much-wanted child I would have had to quit my job to care for them. This would have meant we had to sell our home as one salary would not cover the bills,” she added.

“This would have been detrimental to my one child. The system is a shambles and it is so upsetting. It is horrendous that myself and my husband are both professionals yet we cannot afford a second child due to the first years of their life requiring childcare.”

Another woman who works as a student nurse said the cost of living crisis, coupled with her struggle to afford childcare, has meant she has been forced to go back on anti-depressants.

She studies full time while her partner works 45 hours a week, she added, saying she is not eligible for support with childcare during this academic year.

The student nurse said: “Next academic year we get £227 for the whole academic year to cover five days a week of childcare at £54 a day.

“We get no universal credit, no free hours or tax-free childcare because I’m a student so classed as not working. We cannot afford childcare so I have missed hours on placement or at university and this is negatively affecting my chances of qualifying.

“We are drowning in debt, struggling to feed our son and are unable to afford basics such as petrol, food, utilities. Before I started this degree the cost was doable. With inflation and the cost of living soaring, we are crippling.”

She said they already had to wave goodbye to their house deposit, as well as forking out £20,000 of savings on basics and childcare as they have been unable to subsist on their earnings.

It comes after the government was fiercely criticised over fresh plans announced earlier in the week to boost the affordability as well as the provision of childcare.

A new consultation will explore raising the number of children that can be cared for by each staff member in early years, with suggestions to overhaul staff-to-child ratios from 1:4 to 1:5 for two-year-olds.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said: “Given the scale of the challenges facing the early years at the moment, it is beyond frustrating that the government is wasting its time consulting on relaxing ratios.

“Rather than just admitting that if we want to have affordable, quality, sustainable care and early education in this country, we need to invest substantially more into the sector than we are doing at the moment.”

Mr Leitch said his organisation, which represents, nurseries, pre-schools, and registered childminders, among others, has found the government’s plans to reduce radios “will not only fail to lower the cost of early years places, but in any settings that do adopt the new ratios, will drive down quality and worsen the already catastrophic recruitment and retention crisis the sector is already experiencing.”

While Ms Brearley argued government plans on ratios “will have little to no impact on costs, instead it will only serve to create a lower quality system, further deterring women from using our childcare provision”.

The study carried out by her charity also found out of 28,000 women who already had a child, or children, just over six in 10 said childcare costs were either the main reason or a key part of their choice not to have more kids. A quarter of those polled said it was the predominant factor in why they chose not to have more children.

Researchers polled over 28,000 parents about the repercussions of summer holiday childcare costs. Some 1,630 of those women had decided to terminate a pregnancy in the last half a decade, with these being women who were already mothers to at least one child. The study was self-selecting.

While a previous study by Pregnant Then Screwed found almost one fifth of parents have been forced into quitting their jobs due to the extortionate cost of childcare in the UK – with researchers saying it is predominantly women bearing this burden.