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Last Updated:  Thursday, 27 February, 2003, 13:26 GMT
Teen pregnancy rates falling
British teen pregnancy rates are high
Teenage pregnancy rates across England and Wales have dropped for the third year in a row, official figures reveal.

Government statistics show the number of girls under the age of 18 who became pregnant last year fell by 3%.

Ministers said the figures showed efforts to cut teenage pregnancy rates - the highest in western Europe - are paying off.

Public Health Minister Hazel Blears said an extra 40m would now be made available to fund its teenage pregnancy strategy over the next three years.

Rates falling

Overall, teenage pregnancy rates have dropped by 9% since 1998. The Department of Health said this meant 8,000 conceptions in girls under 18 have been avoided.

Conception rates have dropped faster in girls under the age of 16, down by 4.5% last year and down by 10% since 1998.

These figures show very encouraging progress
Public Health Minister Hazel Blears
The government has pledged to cut the rate of conceptions in under 18s by 15% by next year and by 50% by 2010.

Ms Blears said the latest figures showed the government was on track to meet its targets.

"These figures show very encouraging progress towards our goal of halving the under 18 conception rate by 2010," she said.

"The 9% reduction over three years reflects an enormous amount of work and commitment at a local level towards helping young people make safe, informed choices and supporting teenage parents to improve the quality of life for them and their children.

"The increase in funding will enable local areas to build on the progress made so far. Tackling Britain's unacceptably high rates of teenage pregnancy remain a key priority."

The fpa, formerly the Family Planning Association, also welcomed the figures.

Anne Weyman, its chief executive, said the drop in pregnancy rate among under 16s was particularly good news.

"We are optimistic that the teenage pregnancy strategy is beginning to show results and that this downward trend will continue," she said.

Meanwhile, figures from the Office of National Statistics also show that 53% of conceptions now occur outside marriage. This compares to 43% in 1990.

They also show that one in four pregnancies now end in an abortion.

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