Number Of Abortions In England, Wales Increases 4% In 2006

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Number Of Abortions In England

The number of abortions reported in England and Wales in 2006 increased 4% from 186,400 in 2005 to 193,700 last year, according to figures released Tuesday by the United Kingdom's Department of Health, London's Guardian reports (Ward, Guardian, 6/20). The figures show the overall rate of abortion is 18.3 abortions per 1,000 women and girls ages 15 to 44 living in England and Wales, compared with 17.8 abortions per 1,000 women and girls in 2005 for the same age group. About 89% of the procedures were performed before 13 weeks' gestation and 68% were performed under 10 weeks' gestation, according to the figures (Moynihan, Press Association, 6/19)

The abortion rate was highest among women age 19 at 35 per 1,000. According to the figures, there were 3.9 abortions per 1,000 girls under age 16 and 18.3 per 1,000 girls under age 18, London's Times reports (Hinds, Times, 6/19). The figures also showed that 32% of women who had an abortion had already had at least one previous abortion -- a percentage that remains unchanged from 2005 despite the government allocating 40 million pounds, or about $79.4 million, for contraception education, London's Telegraph reports (Davies, Telegraph, 6/20).

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Health Minister Caroline Flint said, "We welcome the fact that a higher percentage of abortions are taking place at an early stage." She added, "It is important that women have early access to abortion services as the earlier the abortion, the lower the risk of complications. However, the [National Health Service] needs to work harder to reduce the demand for abortions by improving access to contraception" (BBC News, 6/19). Abortion-rights groups are calling for increased spending on contraceptive services to prevent unintended pregnancy, noting that the average amount spent on contraception per woman in England is 11 pounds, or about $22, the Guardian reports (Guardian, 6/20). Contraceptive services are "in crisis," Anne Weyman, CEO of the Family Planning Service, said, adding, "Services are being cut and clinics are closing up and down the country."

Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said, "Without positive support, an abortion can seem unavoidable - but may be bitterly regretted later on," adding, "The government's approach of promoting early abortion is increasing the overall number of abortions" (BBC News, 6/19). Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, which provides contraception and abortion services, said, "A rise in the number of abortions is not the problem in itself; the real problem is the number of women experiencing unintended pregnancy." Furedi added, "For some of these, abortion will be the solution to the very serious problem of being faced with an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy" (Press Association, 6/19).

According to the Telegraph, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has called for a review of sex education to help address the issue. The British Medical Association next week is scheduled to vote on a proposal to relax abortion laws by eliminating language that requires women who are less than 13 weeks' pregnant to have the signature of two doctors before undergoing a procedure (Telegraph, 6/20). The proposal also would allow a wider range of medical professionals to perform an abortion (Guardian, 6/20).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyWomen's Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for emaildelivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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