Number of teenage abortions on rise

THE number of teenage girls having abortions in Suffolk has risen by nearly 10% in one year, new figures have revealed.

Lizzie Parry

THE number of teenage girls having abortions in Suffolk has risen by nearly 10% in one year, new figures have revealed.

Statistics released yesterday by the Office for National Statistics show the number of conceptions leading to abortions in the county in 2006 was 42, rising to 46 in 2007.

The report reveals teenage pregnancy rates among under-18s in Suffolk have also risen over the same time period.

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There were 30.8 conceptions per 1,000 girls aged under-18 in 2006, rising to 31.5 per 1,000 girls in 2007, the report shows.

The actual number of pregnancies in girls under the age of 18 has increased from 412 in 2006 to 423 in 2007.

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It is the first time since 2002 that the overall pregnancy rate among under-18s in England and Wales has risen, the data shows.

Despite the rise recorded in Suffolk, rates in the county are still below the average for the country and the region as a whole.

But the local primary care trust, NHS Suffolk said there are pockets of the county where rates are particularly high.

Amanda Jones, deputy director of public health at NHS Suffolk, said: “Although our teenage pregnancy rates are lower than the national average, they are high in some geographical areas, particularly those that are more deprived - and we're working hard with our partners, including Suffolk County Council, to try and reduce these health inequalities.”

Areas in Ipswich have higher rates of teenage pregnancy, compared with other areas within the county as a whole.

Wards with a higher rate of teenage pregnancy include Bridge, Westgate, Gipping, Gainsborough and Whitton.

To tackle the rising number of pregnancies in young girls in the area NHS Suffolk has a number of proactive measures in place to help address the issue.

Dr Jones added: “For example, by ensuring young people have easy access to non-judgemental advice and contraceptive services.

“Advice about sexual health and contraception is available through GPs, community clinics and many schools.

“Evidence from almost every developed country in the world suggests that where proper advice and guidance is readily available to young people, unwanted pregnancies are reduced.

“As the county's primary care trust, we're highly aware of the importance of good sexual health services for all people - and especially teenagers.

“The integrated sexual health service that will be available across Suffolk in the coming months will increase choices,” she said.

In Essex the figures mirrored the national trend with the number of pregnancies among under-18s rising from 839 in 2006 to 861 the following year.

There were 32.4 conceptions per 1,000 of women aged 15 to 17 in 2006 increasing slightly to 32.9 per 1,000 in 2007.

One educational organisation yesterday said teenage conception figures are only the tip of the iceberg.

Norman Wells, director of Family and Youth Concern said the real problem was the increasing numbers of young people engaging in casual recreational sex.

“This is not only leading to rising rates of conceptions and sexually transmitted infections, but it is also causing emotional damage that may make it more difficult to form a truly intimate, trusting and satisfying marriage later on,” he said. “The government's teenage pregnancy strategy has been a disaster for young people.

“The expansion of confidential contraceptive services for young people under the age of 16 is making it more difficult for girls to resist the advances of their boyfriends and is giving the green light for boys to pressurise girls into sexual activity.”

The Government has pledged to halve teenage pregnancy rates among girls under 18 by half by next year but is widely expected to miss that target.

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