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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 February 2007, 10:42 GMT
Rise in abortions after Christmas
The charity blames excessive partying and drinking for the rise
Heavy Christmas drinking and partying, leading to unprotected sex, could be to blame for a record number of abortions last month, says a UK charity.

A total of 5,992 abortions were carried out at Marie Stopes International's nine UK clinics in January - a rise of 13% on the 5,304 in January 2005.

This is more in a month than at any time in the charity's 32-year history.

But pregnancy advice groups said the figures probably reflected poor access to contraceptive services.

Partying excess and alcohol consumption combine to increase libido and lower inhibition
Liz Davies of Marie Stopes International

Marie Stopes said there was a "clear case" for the government to launch a campaign on the run up to the festive season to alert women and men to the importance of preventing unwanted pregnancies and sexually-transmitted infections.

Last Christmas the charity offered festive "party purses" stocked with condoms and the morning after pill.

Liz Davies, MSI director of UK operations, said: "Despite our efforts we have still seen the biggest rise ever in abortion figures in the month after Christmas.

"We may be seeing the consequences of the festive season, when partying excess and alcohol consumption combine to increase libido and lower inhibition, with the inevitable consequences of unprotected sex resulting in unplanned pregnancies."

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), also saw a higher than usual number of women for abortion treatment this January.

Clinics closing

But it blames poor service provision for the increase.

Chief executive Ann Furedi said: "Closure of family planning facilities, GPs and pharmacists during the holiday period means contraceptive access is reduced.

"Women who needed an abortion referral in December may also have had to wait until the holidays are over in January to get treatment.

"This year, to make things much worse, drastic NHS spending cutbacks are resulting in well-documented delays to abortion in some areas.

"It may be due to that treatment bottleneck that the treatments have been clustered together in January."

A spokesman for the Department of Health said that improving access to emergency contraception was "only one part of a complex picture" to reducing abortion rates.

He said: "Our policy has always been that safe sex, using reliable contraception on a regular basis, is the best way for women to protect against unintended pregnancy.

"We are working hard to reduce the demand for abortions and have undertaken an audit to identify gaps in service provision."

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children said easier access to birth control drugs and devices was not the solution, and said such measures had failed to contain the rising number of abortions.

According to Department of Health statistics, a total of 186,400 abortions were carried out in England and Wales in 2005.

A total of 84% of these were funded by the NHS and over half of these were performed under contract in the independent sector by clinics such as those run by Marie Stopes and BPAS.

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