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Elite British sportswomen twice as likely to have an abortion, survey finds

18 August 2020

A BBC survey of elite British sportswomen recently found that they are twice as likely to have an abortion than other women.

The rate of abortion amongst female athletes is 4 per cent, more than double the average abortion rate which stands at 1.7 per 100 women.

537 women were surveyed, and several of the responses reported highlighted the various obstacles sportswomen face in pursuing sporting careers as well as navigating family life.

Damage to career prospects

One woman said she felt her 'life would be over for me doing what I wanted to do in my sport', when she obtained an abortion aged 21. 'You just couldn't do what I went on to do. The risks are high in my sport. You're either in or out. It only really worked for me when I didn't have any responsibilities to anyone else.'

Another woman, a professional rugby player, was concerned that a scar from a C-section might erupt from repeatedly crouching in a scrum.

Other women spoke of the painful experience they faced in having to tell their partner they felt unable to have a child and a career:

'"It's a hard one. I sit there with tears in my eyes because it's so hard to say. It's really hard to say to your partner who really wants a baby: Look, I love you with all my heart but if we were to fall pregnant, we wouldn't be able to keep it.

"It's very hard to say: 'I love you but I wouldn't have your child right now.' It's awful, it really is.'

No maternity cover or support

One of the hindrances causing athletes to delay childbearing is the unique nature of a sporting career, where maternity cover is simply not an option:

"I'm not in that 9-5 job where it is more accepted that a woman will take some time off at some point in her career to have a baby - you get maternity cover for those kinds of jobs. I don't get maternity cover for my career; no-one is going to be able to go and compete and shoot for me."

Another women highlighted that elite sports culture does not support women who want to be mothers: "I think it is a lot harder for women to have a family while playing sport. No-one in our sport has ever had a baby and come back and therefore I don't feel confident that I would have the support necessary to start a family, mainly financial. If I wasn't a full-time athlete, I would have hoped to have been well on my way in a career and have already started a family."

Significantly, only 26 per cent felt that their club or governing body supported them to have a baby and return to their sport. More than a third said they did not feel supported in doing so.

CARE's view

Whilst a sporting career clearly entails unique challenges and sacrifices if a woman wants to have a family, it is deeply sad to hear that women are not being supported by their clubs to return to work after having a baby.

It appears there is a pervasive culture in sport where women feel their only option is to seek a termination in order to achieve success. This is a tragedy, and women need to be better supported in these circumstances, particularly financially — as women in any career should be.



In any pregnancy, both the woman and preborn baby have inherent value and dignity, by virtue of being made in the image of God. CARE is passionately pro-woman and pro-life.

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