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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 June 2007, 08:56 GMT 09:56 UK
Abortion numbers increase again
Pro choice and pro life campaigners
There are strong views on both sides of the abortion debate
The number of abortions carried out in England and Wales rose by 3.9% to 193,700 in 2006.

There was also a rise in the under-16 abortion rate, to 3.9 per 1,000 women, and among under-18s to 18.2 per 1,000.

Abortion has been increasing since it was legalised 40 years ago - there were 22,000 legal terminations in 1968.

The Royal College of Obstetricians said the rise was "disappointing" and showed a failure to deal with the problem of unplanned pregnancies.

The abortion rate was highest, at 35 per 1,000, for women aged 19.

A rise in the number of abortions is not the problem in itself - the real problem is the number of woman experiencing unintended pregnancy
Ann Furedi
British Pregnancy Advisory Service

Three out of ten terminations were carried out using an "abortion pill" - up from 24% of the total in 2005.

Some 89% of abortions were carried out at under 13 weeks gestation, with 68% carried out in the first ten weeks of a pregnancy.

Two thousands abortions - 1% of the total - were carried out on the grounds that the child would be born disabled.

Early access

Health Minister Caroline Flint said: "We welcome the fact that a higher percentage of abortions are taking place at an early stage - almost two-thirds under 10 weeks gestation and most under 13 weeks.

"It is important that women have early access to abortion services as the earlier the abortion, the lower the risk of complications.

"However, the NHS needs to work harder to reduce the demand for abortions by improving access to contraception."

Anne Weyman, chief executive of the Family Planning Assocation said the rise in abortions was not surprising, as contraceptive services were "in crisis".

She said: "Services are being cut and clinics are closing up and down the country.

"In England, the average amount spent on each woman's contraception is about 11.

"Some Primary Care Trusts have admitted they spend just 18 pence.

"This is unbelievable and wouldn't be tolerated if it happened in another part of healthcare."

Government blamed

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) said government policy to cut waiting lists had promoted fast-track abortion, and made doctors reluctant to refer women for counselling.

Paul Tully, SPUC general secretary, said: "Without positive support an abortion can seem unavoidable - but may be bitterly regretted later on.

"The government's approach of promoting early abortion is increasing the overall number of abortions.

"Gordon Brown should end the Labour Government's policy of rushing women as quickly as possible through the abortion mill in its frenzy to cut waiting times."

Mr Tully also called for measures to stop teenagers being allowed to have abortions without the knowledge of their parents.

Attitudes changing

Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, which provides contraception and abortion services, said: "Increasingly, women expect to be able to plan their families, and they cannot do this through contraception alone.

"Contraception sometimes fails and sometimes we fail to use it properly.

"Women will always need the option of abortion if their usual birth control has let them down."

Ms Furedi said social attitudes to abortion were also changing, with more people understanding that becoming a parent was a significant social resonsibility that not everybody was in a position to accept.

"A rise in the number of abortions is not the problem in itself - the real problem is the number of woman experiencing unintended pregnancy.

"For some of these, abortion will be the solution to the very serious problem of being faced with an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy."

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists called for a review sex education to help address the issue.

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