Under-14 abortions increase 21%

The government has insisted it is making progress on abortion after 2007 figures show the number of under-14s having abortions jumped by 21 per cent.

Department of Health statistics reveal 163 girls under 14 had abortions in 2007, up from the 135 cases seen the previous year.

The number of abortions among 14-year-olds rose above the 1,000 mark for the first time, reaching 1,008. This represents an 11 per cent increase on 2006’s figure of 907.

The figures also show the overall number of abortions, 198,500, has increased by 2.5 per cent on 2006 figures. But medical abortions accounted for 35 per cent of the total, up from 30 per cent.

The abortion rate per 1,000 people in the population has increased steadily since 1970, when it stood at eight. It rose above 15 by 1990 and has increased to nearly 19 today.

Nearly nine out of ten abortions were funded by the NHS, the majority of which took place in the independent sector under NHS contract.

Health minister Dawn Primarolo said the government’s priority was to reduce the waiting time for women wanting an abortion.

She pointed out today’s release showed “considerable progress” in this, with the percentage of women having their abortion before ten weeks’ gestation up to two-thirds from just over half in 2002.

“Contraception plays a vital role in preventing teenage pregnancy and earlier this year I announced a further investment of £26.8 million to improve women’s access to contraception and help reduce the number of abortions, repeat abortions and teenage pregnancies,” she added.

Last month MPs voted to retain the current upper limit on abortion at 24 weeks, rejecting calls for it to be lowered to between 12 and 22 weeks.