‘Lifestyle’ abortions increasing

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The release of official figures has indicated that there is an increase in the number of females having nine or more pregnancy terminations. MPs claimed that abortion is simply being used as a form of contraception.

The Department of Health figures show that 70% of the abortions during the last year were carried out on married females or those in a long-term, stable relationship.

In total, the number of abortions in England and Wales last year reached 190800, bringing the overall total for the past ten years to just below two million. British mainland figures were 202,577 during 2013.

The figures indicated an increase in the number of older women seeking abortions. The abortion rate among over-35s has reached the highest level ever, while the rate among teenagers has hit a record low. In excess of 50% of those seeking abortions during the last year were women who had other children. This group has increased by around 13% over the past decade.

Campaign groups and MPs have stated that the restrictions under the 1967 Abortion Act are no longer being taken account of and the procedure has become a ‘lifestyle choice’, as well as a form of contraception, instead of a last resort.

This situation has been clarified after the controversial decision by prosecutors and police not to prosecute doctors who have pre-signed abortion forms without having consulted with the women.

The chief executive of the largest abortion provider in the UK, Ann Furedi of British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) said abortions should be seen as a ‘standard’ part of overall healthcare for women. She accused those who argue about ignoring the law as ‘politicising’ abortion.

The total number of terminations may be on the increase, but as a proportion of the overall population, it has declined to its lowest level over 16 years. This is despite a growth in the population.

For the first time, unmarried females who stated that they have a partner, account for 51% of abortions. When this is combined with married females, it indicates that in excess of two thirds had a partner or spouse, which is an increase from 50% five years ago.

The figures have indicated a rapid increase in the number of serial abortions. There were 49 females in England and Wales who had already experienced at least eight abortions previously. This figure has increased from 33 during 2012.

Almost 8,500 terminations have been performed on females over the age of 40, including 24 who were over the age of 50.

There were 190 procedures which were done after the limit of 24 weeks, which is one fifth more than during 2012.

The Conservative MP and chair of an all-party group on abortion on disability grounds, Fiona Bruce, stated that the Abortion Act was intended for abortion in exceptional circumstances, but the figures are indicating that it is sadly being used as a substitute for contraception and a lifestyle choice.

She said that women required better advice and counselling regarding the alternatives that are available. This will aid in the reduction of multiple terminations and the possible negative side effects to females.

The Labour MP, Jim Dobbin, has questioned why in a country where abortion is found abhorrent is it being used as a contraceptive method and the figures are on the increase.

Ms Furedi stated that there is no right or wrong number for abortions. It is there for any woman to use if she needs it. She stated that one third of females will opt for an abortion and the figures indicate that women need better access to contraception, as well as abortion at all stages of their reproductive lives.

She added that effort has been put into the improvement of contraception services for younger females, but women do not stop having sex once they reach the age of 25.

Ms Furedi stated that it was necessary to design services that will meet the needs of older females. These women are often trying to cope with childcare and their careers and they need easy access to contraception.

Image Credit: Toshihiro Oimatsu

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