Page last updated at 09:38 GMT, Thursday, 21 May 2009 10:38 UK

Abortion numbers 'fall slightly'

Graph showing number of abortions 1969-2008

The number of abortions performed in England and Wales has fallen by 1.6%, official figures show.

There were 195,296 abortions in 2008, compared with 198,499 the year before - the first fall in three years and the largest since 1999.

The abortion rates for under 16s and under 18s were also lower than in 2007, the Department of Health data showed.

It comes after a fairly large rise last year, prompting some experts to suggest the 200,000 mark would be passed.

Rising

The abortion rate has been rising since records began - apart from the odd dip from time to time.

It stood at 14.8 per 1,000 women 20 years ago, but the latest figure represents 18.2 per 1,000.

The rate for under 16s was 4.2 and for under 18s it was 18.9.

The highest abortion rate was seen among 19-year-olds with 36 per 1,000 women.

Graphic showing abortions by age

The number of repeat abortions has also been rising over recent years with a third of abortions carried out on women who have already had one.

Overall, the birth rate is rising with the numbers to mothers over 40 at record levels.

Health minister Dawn Primarolo said the abortion fall was "good news".

She added: "More abortions are now happening at under 10 weeks gestation. This is a key priority for us - to reduce the time women have to wait at what is already a very difficult time."

And Liz Davies, of Marie Stopes International, which carries out abortions, said the reduction in teenage abortions was particularly welcome.

"We are pleased that those teenagers who have aspirations other than motherhood appear to be protecting themselves against unintended pregnancy."



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