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Rise in abortion rate among women with partners and over 30s

Published 17/05/2016

There were 185,824 abortions in England and Wales in 2015
There were 185,824 abortions in England and Wales in 2015

Abortions among women who are married or have a partner are rising, as are those to women aged 30 and over.

New data released by the Department of Health also shows a slight rise in the total number of abortions in 2015 compared to the previous year.

Most (92%) of abortions are carried out at under 13 weeks into the pregnancy, with 80% under 10 weeks. Some 8% are performed at 13 weeks or later.

The data comes after the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) came under fire for saying women who want a termination should not face prosecution.

The law states that a woman can face prison if she terminates her pregnancy beyond 24 weeks without medical legal authorisation.

The RCM has said it believes abortion should be removed from the scope of the criminal law.

The new figures for England and Wales show t he total number of abortions in 2015 was 185,824, 0.7% higher than in 2014 when there were 184,571.

Since 2005, abortion rates for women aged 30 to 34 have gone up from 14.5 per 1,000 women to 17.1 in 2015 - an 18% rise.

Rates for women aged 35 or over have also gone up from 6.8 per 1,000 women in 2005 to 7.8 in 2015 - a 15% rise.

Meanwhile rates are dropping among the under-20s.

In 2015, 54% of women undergoing abortions either already had children or had experienced a stillbirth , up from 47% in 2005.

Some 29,358 abortions were for those who were married or in a civil partnership, while 96,564 were to women who were not married but had a partner.

Overall in 2015, almost 70% of those ending a pregnancy were stated as being married or with a partner, compared with 48% in 2005.

Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (Bpas), said: "The proportion of women having abortions who are in partnerships or married has increased markedly over the last decade, and more than half of women having abortions are already mothers.

"The decision to start or expand a family is seen as a significant one, and many people when faced with an unplanned pregnancy are very clear about the kind of environment and circumstances in which they think it is appropriate to have a child.

"Ultimately unplanned pregnancy is a fact of life. Contraception fails and sometimes we fail to use it properly. It remains extremely important that women of all reproductive ages have access to high quality contraceptive services that meet their needs at every life stage."

Ms Furedi said the charity saw many women who underestimate their risk of getting pregnant, particularly as they get older.

"We need to ensure women have access to good, evidence-based information on fertility that gives them the knowledge they need to make the reproductive decisions that are right for them across their lifetimes," she added.

The data showed almost four in 10 (38%) of abortions in 2015 were to women who had already had one or more abortions, up from 32% in 2005.

Just over a quarter (26%) of abortions to under 25s were among women who had one or more abortions before, while 46% of abortions to those aged 25 and over were repeat abortions.

Some 3,213 abortions (2%) were carried out where there was a risk the child would be born with a serious disability.

Congenital malformations such as of the nervous system accounted for a fifth of cases, while c hromosomal abnormalities such as Down's syndrome accounted for 37%.

Eleven terminations had their main reason listed as cleft lip or cleft palate.

Meanwhile, there were 1,853 abortions to girls aged under 16. Some 509 of these were to girls under 15 and 79 of these were to girls aged under 14. The under-16 abortion rate has been falling.

Clara Watson, from the pro-life charity Life, said they were " deeply saddened" by the figures.

"We are shocked that the abortion rate in this country is climbing and that babies with disabilities are still being targeted and eliminated, in particular," she said.

The Don't Screen Us Out campaign, a coalition of Down's syndrome advocacy groups, said it was concerned by the rise in terminations for Down's, from 662 in 2014 to 689 in 2015. It said these figures would rise with a new, more sensitive test for Down's syndrome.

Lynn Murray, spokeswoman for the campaign, said: "As mother of a daughter who has Down's syndrome it is deeply concerning to see that the number of abortions for Down's syndrome have again increased.

"Sadly this is the tip of the iceberg - if the Government follows through on proposals to make these tests available on the NHS, their own projections show that there will be a steep increase in the numbers of children with Down's syndrome screened out by termination."

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