Health: Abortions leapt after Pill scare

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The Independent Online
A government alert about an increased risk of blood clots for women taking the contraceptive Pill issued in October 1995 led to 30,000 extra conceptions and 10,000 extra abortions above those expected, according to a report published yesterday.

In response to the warning, from the Committee on Safety of Medicines, thousands of women abandoned the Pill, despite official advice to continue with it to the end of the course and seek medical advice, putting themselves at immediate risk of pregnancy.

The result was a jump in conceptions and a rise in abortions to more than 120,000. The abortion rate for women aged 15-44 rose from 14.5 per 1,000 in October 1995 to 16 per 1,000 in June 1996, matching rates experienced in 1990, the highest since records began in 1969.

A study in population trends, published by the Office of National Statistics, suggests that one in twenty women who had been using the Pill may have stopped because of the warnings. Rebecca Wood, author of the report, said: "We don't know if teenagers at the start of their sexually active lives were put off from using the Pill. It is very likely that the Pill scare had some effect."

The Birth Control Trust, which provides information to women on dealing with unwanted pregnancies, said the scare was a "fiasco which should never have happened" and predicted that abortion rates would remain high until public confidence in the Pill was restored.

Ann Furedi, director of the charity, said: "A pregnant woman faces a risk of thrombosis [blood clots] which is twice that faced by women on the allegedly `more risky pills'. There has never been a satisfactory explanation from health officials for why they issued the advice they did in the way that they did."