Health experts have pledged to tackle “disturbing” figures which reveal nearly one in three of all abortions performed in Ipswich and East Suffolk last year involved women who had previously undergone a termination.

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Department of Health (DoH) data shows that in 2012 there were 260 “repeat” abortions – 30% of the total number of pregnancies terminated last year.

More than one in five women aged under 25 had undergone the procedure before (21%) while the rate for women aged 25 and over was 38%.

Alan Murray, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for health and adult care, said: “Abortions should not be used for the failure of contraception. It is less than acceptable given the access to contraception advice and contraception devices, and the availability of the morning after pill.

“The figures are disturbing. What surprises me is the 25 and over figure, but I have been led to believe eastern Europeans use abortion more as a contraceptive treatment rather than more traditional methods – and perhaps the reason why Ipswich and east Suffolk has a higher rate is because of towns like Ipswich having a higher ethnic mix.

“The decision to have an abortion is a traumatic blow for any individual. They need extra support if contraception didn’t work in the first place as there could be risks to their health and wellbeing.

“But it is up to us as health advisers, doctors and hospitals to give sound advice and we will be analysing these figures in much more detail. More research is needed.”

A British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) spokesman said it was not surprising that the Ipswich and East Suffolk figures showed a higher proportion of older people reporting previous abortions.

“More women are postponing motherhood until the time is right for them and are trying to avoid pregnancy for a longer period of time, putting them at higher risk of unwanted pregnancy,” she said.

Ann Furedi, chief executive of BPAS, added: “What matters is that every woman with an unplanned pregnancy is able to make the choice that is right for her and access the care that she needs.

“These statistics confirm that women who have abortions do not fit the stereotype of ‘the feckless teenager’. Women of all ages and from all walks of life experience unplanned pregnancy.”

The number of abortions in the county fell by 1% – from 1,335 to 1,294.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “Having an abortion can be a very difficult and traumatic experience so we are concerned about the number of women having repeat abortions.

“It is very important that every woman who has an abortion is offered information about contraception.”

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