Thursday, September 30, 1999 Published at 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
Abortion rate jumps
More woman are having abortions
The number of legal abortions carried out in England and Wales jumped by 4.3 per cent in 1998 to 187,402, official figures show.
The figures, from the Office for National Statistics, also show that the overall abortion rate for women resident in England and Wales increased by 4.8 per cent between 1997 and 1998 from 13.2 to 13.9 abortions for thousand women aged 14-49.
The rates rose for all age groups but the greatest rises were at younger ages.
The rate for 16-19 year olds rose by 8.3 per cent from 24.5 to 26.5 abortions per thousand women.
In 1998, the proportion of abortions carried out at less than 13 weeks gestation was 89%.
A further 10 per cent were performed at between 13 and 19 weeks - the same as in 1997.
'Not necessarily negative'
The rise in abortions has sparked concern among pro-life groups, who believe it reflects a failure of the education system to instill a responsible attitude, and of support services to provide proper help and advice to women who are pregnant.
However, Amanda Callaghan, publicity affairs manager of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said a rise in the number of abortions was not necessarily a bad thing.
She said it appeared that more women than ever before were opting for abortion rather than continuing with an unplanned pregnancy that they did not want.
She said: "There is a much greater emphasis on the need for planned pregnancy and responsible parenting than at any other time.
"So I don't think we should be surprised when women - who take family responsibilities extremely seriously - feel that abortion is a positive step if they do not feel they can take on that responsibility."
Ms Callaghan said the pill scare of October 1995 had brought the issue of abortion to the fore, and made many women realise that it was an option.
The 1995 findings, suggesting third-generation pills doubled the incidence of venous thrombo-embolism was credited with causing a 9% rise in abortions in the UK.
Edward Freeman, a spokesman for the international family planning charity Marie Stopes International, said: "We firmly believe in the right of a woman to terminate an unplanned pregnancy - there are no rights and wrongs on this issue, it is up to the individual."