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Pills 'used for most abortions'


Waiting list crisis for patients needing operations has increased during the pandemic

Waiting list crisis for patients needing operations has increased during the pandemic

Waiting list crisis for patients needing operations has increased during the pandemic

More women now have abortions by taking a pill than by undergoing a surgical procedure, official figures show.

Medical abortions accounted for just over half (51%) of all terminations in England and Wales in 2014, according to the Department of Health.

This was slightly higher than in 2013 when it was 49%, and far greater than in 2004 (20%). It is the first year that there have been more medical procedures than surgical ones.

The total number of abortions carried out in England and Wales last year was 184,571 - 0.4% less than in 2013 (185,311) and 0.6% less than in 2004 (185,713), annual figures show.

As with the previous year, women aged 22 had the greatest amount of abortions, and nearly two in five (37%) w ere to women who had already had one or more terminations.

There was a further drop in both under 16s and under 18s having abortions, with the under 16 abortion rate at 2.5 per 1,000 women and the under 18 rate was 11.1 per 1,000 women.

In 2013 the figures were 2.6 and 11.7 per 1,000 women respectively and in 2004 they were 3.7 and 17.8 per 1,000.

The majority (92%) of abortions were carried out at under 13 weeks gestation, with 80% at less than 10 weeks, compared to 79% in 2013 and 60% in 2004.

Medical abortion is also known as early abortion and involves taking two sets of pills before nine weeks of pregnancy, according to Marie Stopes.

The statistics also showed that more than half (54%) of women undergoing abortions had one or more previous pregnancies, up from 47% in 2004.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Services, which is Britain's largest single abortion provider, said more could be done to support women's contraceptive needs in the postnatal period, as they regularly see them experiencing unwanted pregnancy in the period after giving birth.

Chief executive Ann Furedi said: "No form of contraception is 100% effective, and women will always need straightforward access to abortion services as a back-up if they are to plan their lives and families in the way they see fit. Having done so much to improve contraceptive services for younger women, we must also ensure the needs of older women are met.

"One in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime. It is a fundamental part of women's reproductive healthcare, as these statistics demonstrate.

"It makes no sense that abortion remains within the criminal law in this country, and that women still need the authorisation of two doctors before they can end their own pregnancy.

"It also remains a travesty that in 2015, women from Northern Ireland are unable to access the care they need at home. The time really has come to decriminalise abortion across the UK and regulate it like every other women's healthcare procedure."

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