The number of abortions carried out in England and Wales fell by 3.2% last year, newly released Department of Health figures show. 189,100 abortions were carried out in 2009, compared with 195,296 the previous year. Scotland has also seen its first drop in abortion rates in six years, with 13,005 procedures taking place in 2009.
A record 94% of terminations were funded by the NHS in England and Wales, up from 91% last year, and the number taking place early in pregnancy continues to rise, with 91% carried out before 13 weeks and 75% before 10 weeks. These figures are key indicators of improvements in service provision and accessibility and reflect the increased levels of investment in reproductive health and education seen over the past decade. In 1997 the NHS funded only 75% of abortions, and only 56% took place in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.
Figures released for Scotland highlight the continued link between abortion rates and levels of poverty. In areas of high deprivation the rate is 16.5 per 1000, almost double the rate of 8.8 per 1000 in the most affluent areas
Scottish Public Health Minister Shona Robison said it was encouraging to see a decrease in the number of abortions for all age groups for the first time in six years and noted that the Scottish government was working with parents, schools and the NHS to provide education around relationships and sexual health.
She added: “We have also raised awareness of the contraceptive choices available which suit individual’s lifestyles, such as longer-lasting contraception.
“Services for sexual health in Scotland have also increased in number and improved in quality, in all areas of Scotland, over the past few years.”
The decline in abortion rates across Britain, for all ages groups, highlights the importance of maintaining investment in sexual health and abortion services, and the need to ensure they are protected from future cuts in public sector spending.