Abortion numbers increasing

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Indy Lifestyle Online

There has been a slight rise in the number of abortions carried out in England and Wales.

Some 189,574 abortions were carried out in 2010, up 0.3% on the 189,100 in 2009 and 8% more than in 2000 (175,542).

These abortions were to women living in England and Wales. Another 6,535 were to non-residents.

The last time there was a rise in the total number of abortions was between 2006 and 2007.

Half of abortions (49%) in 2010 were to women with partners while 26% were to single women and 16% of abortions occurred within marriage.

Some 3,718 were to girls under 16 (slightly down on the previous year), 12,742 were to those aged 16 and 17, and 21,809 were to girls aged 18 and 19.

Some 27,046 abortions were among women aged 35 and over.

In total, 64,303 procedures were to women who had had at least one abortion previously.

Of these, 1,201 abortions were among girls under 18 who had undergone one previous abortion, while 79 were to girls who had had two or more.

Among those aged 18 to 24, 17,735 abortions were to girls who had one abortion previously while 3,453 were to girls who had had two previously.

The statistics also showed that almost 300 women aged 25 to 29 had had four or more previous abortions.

Overall, most (77%) abortions took place before 10 weeks gestation.

Across all ages, the abortion rate was 17.5 per 1,000 resident women aged 15-44, the same as in 2009 but more than double the 8.0 recorded in 1970.

The rate was highest in women 19 and 20, but has dropped among the under-16s and under-18s.

Dr Paula Franklin, director of clinical development at Marie Stopes International, said: "Although the numbers are similar to those of 2009, we are surprised not to see a further decrease in the number of abortions across England and Wales.

"Improved access to counselling and advice, through services like Marie Stopes International's OneCall, is allowing women to access a full range of information early.

"In 2010, 91% of abortions were carried out at under 13 weeks gestation, requiring a simpler procedure with fewer chances for complication and can reduce the stress and anxiety experienced by a woman in making what can be a difficult decision."

Natika Halil, director of information for the Family Planning Association (FPA), said: "Over the last decade, we've seen significant achievements in abortion services. Most women are having abortions under 13 weeks and we've seen a substantial rise in early medical abortions.

"Medical abortions are a much more straightforward and less invasive procedure for women.

"The cost to the NHS is greatly reduced - especially relevant in the current economic climate. The next logical, clinically-safe step with early medical abortion is to allow women to have them at home."

Shadow public health minister Diane Abbott said: "Abortion rates were falling under the Labour government because of its investment in contraceptive services and sexual health campaigns.

"Abortion rates have levelled off and will now undoubtedly rise further because contraceptive services are being slashed nationwide.

"The coalition Government has not protected provision of contraceptive services despite the fact they are cost-effective as well as being a basic human right."

Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (Bpas), said: "It is notable that numbers have remained stable despite increasing investment in and promotion of longer-term methods of contraception.

"This shows how difficult it is for women to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Abortion is not a problem in itself. For many women abortion is a back-up to their contraception.

"It is a rational and ethical solution to the problem of a pregnancy that they cannot continue with.

"We must do what we can to reduce the need for abortion while accepting that it will always be an important back-up for women whose contraception has failed, or whose circumstances have changed.

"Our challenge is to ensure abortion remains as accessible as possible for those women who need it."