More mothers had abortions than childless women last year for the first time since the procedure became legal in Britain.
Latest statistics for 2011 published yesterday show that 51 per cent of women undergoing abortions already had at least one child.
Repeat abortions also rose to 36 per cent of the total, an increase of 5 per cent in the past decade. Among under-18s, 7 per cent had had one or more previous abortions
A leading abortion provider said the growing use of abortion to limit family size showed the need for contraceptive and sexual health services among older women and mothers had been neglected relative to younger women.
BPAS, formerly the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said the "massive" emphasis on infertility could be lulling older women in to wrongly believing they could not get pregnant.
Marie Stopes International, which provides abortion and contraceptive services, called on the Government to boost contraceptive provision for women who had already terminated at least one pregnancy.
Tracey McNeill, UK director, said: "We believe we need to radically change the way we provide post-abortion contraception to women, if we're going to reduce the number of abortions by any great number. We look to the Government to support us in our efforts, by transforming contraception provision in the UK. We would like to be able to check in with a woman at regular intervals after her abortion to see if she's still using the contraception we provided her with, or if she'd like us to provide a different method."
The proportion of mothers having abortions has risen by 1 per cent a year since 2008 to reach 51 per cent in 2011, having been stable at 47 per cent until 2007. In total, almost 190,000 abortions were carried out last year, the same rate – 17.5 per thousand women of reproductive age – as the previous year but down from the peak of 18.6 per thousand in 2007.
The statistics show abortions rose among the over-25s while they have fallen among the under-25s.
A spokesman for BPAS said: "Older women have been neglected. It is almost as if there is a belief that women's sex lives stop at 25 or 30. Women in their 30s are going off the Pill because there is a belief that after 10 years you ought to switch to other forms of contraception. We all know contraception is not 100 per effective."
"There are so many messages about the chances of conceiving going down rapidly after 30. We get women in their mid-30s who, because of these messages , assume they are not going to get pregnant and then have a slip up. We think of abortion as a young woman's issue but women also want to control the size of their families."
Social changes, including the breakdown of partnerships, the expectation that older women would have more active sex lives, and the "huge focus" on providing sexual health services to younger women were also factors, she said.
Total number of abortions carried out in England and Wales last year.Reuse content