Page last updated at 01:41 GMT, Monday, 12 January 2009

More Asian women having abortions

By Sabina Alderwish
BBC Asian Network

Abortion equipment
Many Asian girls do not trust their GPs with confidentiality about an abortion

There has been a big jump in the number of Asian women having abortions in the UK, according to figures from the Department of Health.

They show there were 15,197 terminations in 2007, compared with 10,084 in 2003 for all age groups.

Experts say more Asian women are now in open relationships and are having sex whereas culturally in the past it was something they did after marriage.

Health professionals want contraceptive services to be better promoted.

One Asian teenager, who wanted to remain anonymous, told the BBC about her experience of having an abortion two years ago.

"I was in a relationship with someone and it wasn't open, and we were having an intimate relationship and... unfortunately I found out I was pregnant... I didn't know what to do, didn't know who to turn to."


She says she did not know how to access contraception other than through her doctor and like many other Asian girls she says that was not an option for her.

"It would be really embarrassing and uncomfortable for me to explain that to him... as I felt he could tell my parents. [I was] just scared... they were going to find out."

Health professionals are calling for contraceptive services to be made more accessible and be better promoted in the Asian community. The rise in abortions is particularly reflected in Birmingham.

If you think about them [abortion clinics] historically they are pretty much geared up for white middle class women
Carolyn Philips

Sexual health advisor Penny Barber from the Brook Advisory Clinic in the city told the BBC: "Young Asian people are more likely to come and visit us having had unprotected sex, they appear to be less likely to be using ongoing contraception and they are more likely to be referred for terminations."

The Calthorpe clinic - one of Birmingham's main abortions centres - has seen the number of terminations go up by a fifth in the last five years.

Carolyn Philips, who runs the clinic, says fears over confidentiality means many women will not visit their GPs and they do not always find family planning clinics welcoming.

"If you think about them historically they are pretty much geared up for white middle-class women," she said.

Awareness call

The UK has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe and in an attempt to tackle this, the government is sending family planning nurses into schools to help pupils access their services better.

Ms Philips says a similar campaign is needed to promote contraception within the Asian community too.

"There need to be campaigns targeting Asian women even if it's not quite within their culture and it's something their parents won't be happy about - these women need to know that they feel very, very safe and this is something they can access."

One Asian girl told the BBC she feels that if she knew more about the services out there, then she might not have got pregnant.

"I think there needs to be more open conversations about it, so I could've been more aware of what I could've done," she said.

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