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Abortion Levels Hit Record
High in England and Wales


Doctors performed a record number of abortions in England and Wales in 2003, with almost two percent of women aged 15 to 44 choosing to end a pregnancy, according to health ministry figures published in the British press.

There were 181,600 abortions last year, a rise of 3.2 percent. This compared to 175,900 the previous year, when the number of voluntary pregnancy terminations had been down by 0.5 percent.

Last year, there were 17.5 abortions for every 1,000 women in the 15-44 age bracket, an all-time record, the figures showed.

Women in the 20-24 age bracket chose to have abortions more frequently than any other age group, at a rate of 31 per 1,000, but in every age bracket the number of pregnancy terminations rose.

There were 37,043 abortions performed on girls in the 15-19 age group, 51,124 on women aged 20 to 24, and 36,018 on women aged 25 to 29.

"The figures are disappointing. However, no contraception method is 100 percent effective and there will always be women seeking an abortion as they are legally entitled to do," the health ministry said.

Meanwhile the percentage of abortions carried out for medical reasons increased from 14 to 17, while 58 percent of all abortions took place within 10 weeks of conception, and 29 percent between 10 and 12 weeks.

"It is good news that more abortions are taking place under 10 weeks and that there are higher rates of medical abortion," said Anne Weyman, head of the British family planning association.

However, she said the figures showed a "desperate need for investment in National Health Service contraceptive services".

"Access to good-quality, widely available services is essential in preventing unplanned pregnancies," she insisted.

"Providing individuals with access to the full range of contraceptive methods should not be regarded as a luxury service when it is each person's right to be able to control their own fertility and safeguard their sexual health," she said.

More than 9,000 women from Ireland and Northern Ireland had abortions in Britain in 2003. Almost 7,000 Irish women underwent the procedure, double the figure in 1980.

In both Ireland and Northern Ireland, the operation remains illegal under an 1861 British law, barring circumstances where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, including suicide.

In July the architect of Britain's 1967 abortion law called for a change in legislation to prevent abortions beyond about three months from conception, due to medical advances enabling premature babies to be kept alive from 22 weeks.

Britain changed the 1967 law in 1990, reducing from 28 weeks to 24 weeks the limit on abortion at the mother's request. Abortions can still be carried out up to nine months if the embryo is severely disabled or if the woman's health is endangered.


Reference Source 102
August 30, 2004


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