Concerns Raised Over ‘Abortion Epidemic’

Serious concerns were raised yesterday about an “abortion epidemic” after a leading clinic said it was conducting the most terminations in its 32-year history. Marie Stopes International, a charity, said it had recorded its busiest month for abortions – 6,000 in January alone.

{mosimage}The figure had risen from 5,304 in the same month last year, a rise of 13 per cent. The figures led to alarm from family campaigners and concern about women having multiple abortions. Around two thirds of the agency’s work is for the NHS, which refers women to its clinics and picks up the bill.

In total it conducted 61,983 abortions last year, a figure which anti-abortionists describe as appalling given the number of infertile couples desperate to have children.

Liz Davies, the director of UK operations at Marie Stopes, said it seemed that “we may be seeing the consequences of the festive season, when partying excess and alcohol consumption combine to increase libido and lower inhibition, with the inevitable consequences of unprotected sex resulting in unplanned pregnancies”.

The agency wants a Government campaign, before next Christmas, against unprotected sex and a ministerial emphasis on women storing emergency contraception in their bathroom cupboards.

A spokesman said: “We are not saying ‘ooh go on, get loads of pills and go out and have sex’. But we would like to see a better education campaign around Christmas kick-started by the Government.” She said those presenting themselves at clinics were not just young single women off the party circuit. “We don’t just mean flighty singles. We also see long-term couples. One of the reasons some women want an abortion is that they have three children already and do not have any money for a fourth.”

In the run-up to Christmas, Marie Stopes controversially encouraged women to obtain emergency contraception in advance of the party season.

Miss Davies said: “Despite our efforts we have still seen the biggest rise ever in abortion figures in the month after Christmas. It’s obvious that one agency working in this field with limited resources can never have a significant impact on abortion figures.”

Recent concerns about the number of abortions being conducted, accompanied by images showing a 12-week-old foetus sucking its thumb, have fuelled demands for a change in legislation to prevent women using abortion as contraception.

Norman Wells, of the Family Education Trust, said last night: “Marie Stopes International is seriously misguided if it imagines that pouring yet more public money into promoting contraception is going to arrest high abortion rates.”

Lord David Alton, a Liberal Democrat peer and leading Roman Catholic, said: “The fact that there are 600 abortions per day in this country was not what was anticipated when abortion was made legal 40 years ago.

“A doctor friend of mine says some female patients come back again and again for abortions. There are psychological and physical repercussions to abortion.”

A spokesman for Life, the pro-life charity, said organisations such as Marie Stopes needed “to start promoting and encouraging more responsible and mature sexual behaviour, not simply handing out contraceptives like sweets.

“The easy availability of contraception is bound to increase the number of abortions, because it encourages people to believe that they can have sex without thinking about the consequences”.