Abortion figures cause concern

AN average of nine abortions are being performed in Suffolk and north Essex every day, new Government figures reveal.More than 3,200 abortions were performed in the region last year, with 1,754 in north Essex and 1,528 in Suffolk.

AN average of nine abortions are being performed in Suffolk and north Essex every day, new Government figures reveal.

More than 3,200 abortions were performed in the region last year, with 1,754 in north Essex and 1,528 in Suffolk. Of those, 319 were carried out on girls under the age of 18.

The highest figure the Department of Health recorded was in the area covered by the Suffolk West Primary Care Trust (PCT) at 475.

Last night, the system was criticised for not giving men and women a “cooling off” period - time enough to think about the choices they have before they go ahead with an abortion.


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But the role of education and access to different types of contraception were also highlighted as major factors in the rate of unwanted pregnancies.

Dr Janet Massey, a Felixstowe GP and women's task force representative at the East Anglia faculty of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: “If pregnancy does occur, one of the weaknesses of the present situation could be that access to abortion is almost immediately available, and that time for reflection and discussion with the wishes of the man involved and other potentially very supportive family members, friends or organisations providing practical help may not be exhaustively considered.”

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With most abortions being carried out on women under the age of 24, Dr Amanda Jones, director of public health at Suffolk Coastal Primary Care Trust (PCT), added that abortion rates are interconnected with teenage pregnancy and binge drinking.

Although the number of abortions performed in Suffolk and north Essex has dropped slightly from 2004, which saw 3,332 recorded, in the last three years a total of 243 have been carried out on girls under the age of 16.

Nationally, the figures reached record levels last year, with 186,416 carried out on women living in England and Wales.

Rev Caroline Hallett, curate in the Sole Bay Ministry Team in Southwold, said: “Education and information about contraception is hugely important and access to it to prevent unplanned pregnancies.

“But I think, on the other hand, it often isn't the disaster people think it is going to be. I have met many women who have kept their babies and continued with education and employment and have handled both. It might not be the easy option but we need to encourage young people to think carefully before having abortions.

“Some people are left very troubled afterwards. They do it as a quick fix but there can be consequences and a legacy of guilt that they have to live with and try to handle.”

The figures were released as pressure grows on ministers to look at abortion time limits from both MPs, who have signed a motion backing a review, and the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor.

Anne Weyman, Family Planning Association chief executive, said: “These latest figures highlight the urgent need to improve NHS contraceptive services, which have, for decades, been treated as the Cinderella service of sexual health.”

She added: “The current NHS deficit is having a direct impact on family planning clinics, with services being reduced or cut altogether in some areas in order to plug the debts of local primary care trusts.”

A Suffolk West PCT spokesman said the figures were “good news”.

“Although over 400 women had abortions this needs to be considered in the context of the size of the population,” he said.

“In west Suffolk only 12 per 1,000 had an abortion which is well under the national average of 18.1. It's also below the regional average of 13 and below nearby local areas such as Ipswich, which has 17 per 1,000.”

A B C

Chelmsford 384 29

Colchester 453 48

Maldon and South Chelmsford 188 -

Tendring 295 39

Uttlesford 122 -

Witham, Braintree and Halstead 312 26

Central Suffolk 155 15

Ipswich 452 53

Suffolk Coastal 210 22

Suffolk West 475 52

Waveney 236 35

Total 3,282 319

A - Primary Care Organisation

B - Total number of abortions

C - Under 18

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