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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 July 2005, 10:55 GMT 11:55 UK
Abortion rate continues to rise
Few women have abortions later in pregnancy
The number of women having abortions has continued to rise in Wales and England, latest figures show.

Department of Health figures show there were 185,400 abortions in 2004 - a rise of 2.1% from 181,600 in 2003 and about 5.3% from 176,000 in 2002.

The abortion rate in 2004 was highest for women in the 18-19 and 20-24 age groups.

Among under-14s, the rate increased by 6%, nine more girls in total, but went down among under-16s and under-18s.

It is disappointing that the overall level of abortions has increased this year
A Department of Health spokeswoman

For under-16s the rate was 3.7 in 2004 compared with 3.9 in 2003. For under-18s it was 17.8 in 2004 compared with 18.2 in 2003.

The figures showed that 88% of abortions were carried out at less than 13 weeks of the pregnancy.

About 60% were carried out at under 10 weeks' gestation - compared with 58% in 2003.

Only 1% of the abortions, 1,900 in total, were carried out under ground E of the Abortion Act - stating that the child would be born disabled - down from 1,950 in 2003.

Earlier abortions

The NHS funded 82% of abortions, with 51% taking place in the independent sector under contract to the NHS.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "It is disappointing that the overall level of abortions has increased this year.

1969 - 5.3
1979 - 12
1989 - 15.5
1999 - 16.2
2003 - 16.6
2004 - 16.9

"However, the latest data shows a fall in the rate of abortions taking place in under-18s and under-16s.

"There are also more early abortions taking place at under 10 weeks - a key target for primary care trusts across the country."

There have been calls to cut the legal limit from 24 weeks.

The spokeswoman said they were working hard to reduce the demand for abortions by improving access to contraception.

These figures highlight the urgent need to improve NHS contraceptive services
Anne Weyman of the Family Planning Association

The government committed an extra £40 million to improve access to contraceptive services - part of the £300 million for sexual health announced in the Public Health White Paper last year.

The spokeswoman added: "We will also shortly be launching a major public information campaign - educating young people on the importance of safer sex."

Patrick Leahy, director of Student LifeNet, a national coalition of pro-life students, said: "Whilst we are pleased that the under-18 abortion rate has dropped slightly we are astonished that the overall abortion figures have increased yet again to a staggering total of 195,000.


"Alarmingly, the number of under-14 abortions have also increased by 6%.

"This is a very vulnerable group of young girls and we are shocked that the abortion rate for this age category is increasing year-on-year.

"It is clear now that the UK effectively has abortion-on-demand. The government must take immediate steps to reduce this horrific number of abortions by at least half through cutting the abortion time limit."

Anne Weyman, chief executive of the Family Planning Association, said: "These figures highlight the urgent need to improve NHS contraceptive services.

"Greater investment is needed to improve access to services and train more health professionals in order to prevent unintended pregnancy."

Marie Stopes International said a 2% rise was "neither here nor there".

A spokesman said: "There are always variations year on year.

"However, the rise among young people continues to be a concern. This re-emphasises the need for more focus on better sex education."

Ann Furedi, cheif executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said: "Women today want to plan their families and, when contraception fails, they are prepared to use abortion to get back in control of their lives.

"Motherhood is just one among many options open to women and it is not surprising that younger women want to prioritise other things.

"We should stop seeing abortion as a problem and start seeing it as a legitimate and sensible solution to the problem of unwanted pregnancy."

A spokesman from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said: "It is disappointing that after several years of no increase or falling abortion rates, there was a further increase this year.

"We do feel that this requires further investigation and in particular, the availability of fertility control in the UK. On the other hand, the teenage rates are slightly lower and this is encouraging."

Anthony Ozimic of the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child criticised growing rates of abortions carried out early on in pregnancies, saying women were being rushed into making the decision.

Conservative MP Theresa May said the government¿s teenage pregnancy strategy was failing to stem the tide of teenage pregnancy.

"We need to educate and instil young girls with the self esteem to resist the pressures which are clearly placed on them at such young ages, and equip them with the confidence to say no," she said.

Late abortion 'a hard decision'
12 Jul 05 |  Health
Q&A: Abortion law
30 Jun 05 |  UK


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