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Abortion rates continue to rise


The number of abortions in England and Wales has risen slightly for the second year running, according to new figures.

There were 189,931 abortions performed for women resident in England and Wales in 2011, a 0.2 per cent rise on the 189,574 figure in 2010 and 7.7 per cent more than the 176,364 total in 2001, statistics published on the Department of Health website have shown.

The rise comes after the 2010 figure also registered a small increase on the previous year - up 0.3 per cent on the 189,100 total in 2009.

In spite of the increase, the abortion rate last year remained unchanged on the 2010 figure at 17.5 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 years old.

The abortion rate was highest at 33 per 1,000 for women aged 20, unchanged on the 2010 and 2001 figures.

But teenage pregnancy rates registered a fall with the under-16 abortion rate standing at 3.4 per 1,000 and the under-18 rate at 15 per 1,000 women in 2011.

Both figures were lower than the 2010 and 2001 rates - at 3.9 per 1,000 for under 16s and 16.5 per 1,000 women under 18 in 2010 and 3.7 and 18 per 1,000 women respectively in 2001.

The vast majority of abortions, 91 per cent, were carried out last year at under 13 weeks, with more than three quarters, or 78 per cent, performed at under 10 weeks.

A breakdown of the figures showed that there were 1,000 abortions in 2011 performed on girls under 15 years old, less than 1 per cent of the total, and 683 to women aged 45 or more, less than half a per cent of the total.

In 2011, 36 per cent of women undergoing abortions had one or more previous abortions, a figure that has risen from 31 per cent since 2001. More than a quarter, or 26 per cent, of abortions to women aged under 25 years old were repeat abortions.

There were 6,151 abortions for women who are not resident in England and Wales carried out in hospitals and clinics in England and Wales in 2011 compared to 6,535 in 2010. the 2011 figure was the lowest in any year since 1969.

Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) said: "Abortion is a fact of life, because contraception fails and sometimes we fail to use it properly.

"It is a service that one third of women will need in the course of their reproductive lifetimes so they can plan the timing and size of their families, and play a full role in society.

"There is no 'right' number of abortions above and beyond ensuring that every woman who needs to end an unwanted pregnancy can do so, and that obstacles are not put in the way of her accessing supportive services as quickly as possible.

"What matters most is that all women can access the contraception that is most suited to them, and that services are able to accommodate all age groups."