Page last updated at 09:07 GMT, Tuesday, 25 May 2010 10:07 UK

Caution over abortion rate fall

Positive pregnancy test
Abortion rates have generally been rising for 40 years

The abortion rate has dropped for the second year running in England and Wales, statistics show.

But experts said it was still too early to say whether there was a downward trend.

The total number of abortions was 189,100 in 2009 - a rate of 17.5 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44, according to the Department of Health figures.

This compares to 18.2 in 2008 and comes after a general upward trend for the past 40 years which peaked in 2007.

The abortion rate in Scotland also fell last year to 12.4 per 1,000.

Funding

Ann Furedi, of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the largest abortion provider in the UK, said: "Abortion figures tend to fluctuate slightly year-on-year so we can't call this a trend yet, especially with the background of the last few decades' gradual rise."

And she added: "Unintended pregnancy and abortion will always be facts of life because women want to make sure the time is right for them to take on the important role of becoming a parent.

"Abortion statistics are reflective of women's very serious consideration regarding that significant role within their current situation."

At the beginning of the 1970s the abortion rate was around the 8 per 1,000 figure, but after almost continuous year-on-year increases it rose to 18.6 two years ago.

Since then it has fallen, but experts remain cautious as in previous years there have been slight drops or a levelling off which have not been sustained in the long-term.

The figures also show that the proportion of abortions carried out before 10 weeks has risen, with many putting this down to the increase in funding which has improved access over the past decade.

The abortion rate was highest at 33 per 1,000 among women aged 19, 20 and 21, although that too has dropped since last year.



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