Rise in women having repeated abortions in UK: official figures
MORE than a third of women having an abortion in the UK are having the procedure for at least the second time, official figures show.
There has been a jump in the proportion of women having repeat abortions to reach 36 per cent, equating to around 63,300 women, it has been found.
In 2010, 34 per cent of terminations were for women who had already undergone at least one.
This was the biggest rise ever recorded in one year, the figures from the British Department of Health show.
Although the total number of women having an abortion has dropped for the last four years, the proportion of them having the procedure more than once has increased.
The figures also reveal that more women are having multiple terminations.
Last year 434 women had at least their fifth abortion, a number that has risen steadily since 2007.
Campaigners said the rise in repeat abortions was 'particularly disturbing'.
The figures will raise fears that abortion is being used as form of contraception and doctors and nurses are not doing enough to counsel women about family planning methods when they request a termination.
It is thought around £1m is spent on repeat abortions every week.
Across England one in four repeat abortions to women under the age of 25 were repeat abortions. In North East Lincolnshire almost half of abortions carried out on women in this age group were for at least the second time.
Overall the figures show a slight increase in the number of women born in England and Wales having an abortion to reach 189,931 in 2011.
The abortion rate peaked in 2007 and has dropped since then but remains more than double that of 1970.
The figures also show the abortion rate in under 16s, below the age of sexual consent, has dropped from 3.9 per 1,000 girls in 2010 to 3.4 per 1,000 last year.
However this masked a wide variation with nearly eight girls under the age of 16 per 1,000 in Southwark having an abortion compared with two per 1,000 in nearby Kensington and Chelsea.
Michaela Aston from the anti-abortion group, Life, said: "We should be shocked and concerned by these latest statistics, especially given the apparent decline in overall conception rates in 2011, which means that the proportion of all pregnancies that end in abortion has risen considerably.
"This is despite contraception being more widely available than ever before.
“It is particularly disturbing that repeat abortions rose again, with 36 per cent of women seeking abortion having had at least one previous abortion. This is a clear indication that the original intent and spirit of the Abortion Act is being widely flouted and ignored.”
Abortion services have been under scrutiny after the Daily Telegraph revealed doctors were agreeing to perform abortions on the basis of the gender of the feotus, which is illegal in Britain.
Julie Bentley, chief executive of the fpa, formerly the Family Planning Association, said: “Although there’s been a very slight increase, the number of abortions hasn’t changed significantly in the past few years and this is to be welcomed.
"However we do know that cracks are beginning to appear in contraception services. Shockingly some parts of the NHS deliberately ban women from having certain contraceptive methods and there are over three million women who don’t have access to comprehensive services.
"If we are going to bring down abortion numbers, this needs to change. Contraception is an essential not a luxury.”
A spokesman for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), said of repeat abortions: "We are talking about very small numbers overall, and that the women who are in this situation are generally leading very difficult and chaotic lives in which unwanted pregnancy is only one of a number of difficulties.
"There are no easy answers here, these women need all the support they can get but ultimately they cannot be compelled to accept an (contraceptive) implant or a coil – and there would be ethical implications of doing so.
"The number of women having more than one abortion in England and Wales is in keeping with other developed countries – and indeed lower than countries such as Sweden.
"It is reflective of the fact that women expect to be sexually active these days throughout their reproductive lifetimes – and may have an unwanted pregnancy as a young woman and then again once they have completed their families or because a problem is detected with a wanted pregnancy."
She added that because women are putting off motherhood into their 30s and 40s they are sexually active and using contraception for a longer period meaning there is a greater risk overall of it failing.
Public Health Minister Anne Milton said: "Having an abortion can be a very difficult and traumatic experience so we want the number of women having repeat abortions to reduce. It is very important that every woman who has an abortion is offered information about contraception.
"There are many types of contraception available to suit women's needs from the pill to long acting reversible contraceptives such as the contraceptive implant."