UK
29/05/2012 06:31 BST | Updated 27/08/2012 17:01 BST

Abortions In The UK Increased In 2011, Statistics Show

Abortions in the UK increased last year compared to 2010, "concerning" figures released by the department of health on Tuesday showed.

The statistics also show an increased number of repeat abortions, with over a third, 36%, having the procedure again, compared to 34% the previous year.

In 2011, 189,931 abortions were performed in England and Wales compared to 189,574 in 2010, a rise of 0.2% and and 7.7% more than in 2001, which saw 176,364 procedures performed.

Despite the rise in the number of terminations, the rate of under-16s having abortion fell, as did the number of abortions for those who do not live in England and Wales.

More than 2,000 terminations, 1% of the overall figure, were carried out because the child may have been handicapped.

146 abortions were carried out for women who were over 24 weeks pregnant.

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Responding to the figures Tracey McNeill, Director UK and Europe at Marie Stopes International, said in a statement she was "concerned" by the rise in abortions.

McNeill said it was time to "radically change" post-abortion contraception provision to reduce terminations, adding:

“We would like to be able to check in with a woman at regular intervals after her abortion to see if she’s still using the contraception we provided her with, or if she’d like us to provide a different method.

“At the moment, the way the system works means we aren’t allowed to do that, which I think directly correlates with the large number of repeat abortions we see in this country.”

Darinka Aleksic, Campaign Co-ordinator at Abortion Rights said the figures reflected a reduction in teen pregnancy, but noted it was important not to cut back on contraception.

"It's important to note that the abortion rate has remained stable for the third year in a row and has actually fallen slightly for under 16s and under 18s. This reflects the successful focus on reducing teen pregnancy – now at its lowest rate since 1969," she said in a statement to The Huffington Post UK.

"The government must now look at improving access to contraception for all age groups, including women in their 30s and 40s. This is the only sure way to reduce the number of repeat abortions taking place. Now is not the time to be cutting back on contraception and sexual health services."

Diane Abbott said in a statement: "I think these figures show just how dramatically the government has veered off course with its pursuit of trying to let anti-choice organisations take part in abortion counselling.

"There is work to be done to protect and educate young people, especially those that are vulnerable, and to provide the right kind of empowerment and contraception access in order to reduce repeat abortions. Although Britain’s repeat abortion rate is comparable to - or lower than - other Western countries, we need to provide the right access to support and contraception to reduce our rate of repeat abortions."

Anti-abortion group LIFE said the figures should cause concern, with spokesperson Michaela Aston saying in a statement: "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."

Marie Stope's McNeill has previously called for a change in abortion law, telling The Huffington Post UK last week that she did not think two signatures, saying she doesn’t think the 1967 Abortion Act needs to change now, but could “within two years” so to get an abortion women only need the signature of one doctor.

“I think there’s legitimate reasons to say [that]. If you require any other surgical or medical intervention you don’t require two signatures.”