Issues - Abortion - Teenage abortions
More than four in 10 pregnancies among young women aged 15
to 17 end in abortion – but huge variations exist across
the UK, according to a report out today.
Fewer than one in five (18%) conceptions in
the Derwentshire district of County Durham ended in the pregnancy
But in Eden in Cumbria, three out of four (76%)
conceptions resulted in an abortion.
The study, carried out for the Joseph Rowntree
Foundation, found fewer abortions were carried out in the
most socially disadvantaged areas, even though these were
places with the highest rates of conceptions in those under
the age of 18.
The authors, from the Centre for Sexual Health
Research at the University of Southampton, said teenagers’
choices were based on their personal situation at the time
they became pregnant rather than their moral views on abortion.
Those young women who saw their lives as insecure
were more likely to accept motherhood as a positive change.
But those who saw their lives developing through
education or employment were more likely to choose to end
The study looked at abortion and pregnancy data
among 15-17-year-olds between 1999 and 2001.
The researchers found that 44% of conceptions
in this age group ended in termination.
As well as Eden, the highest abortion rates
were found in Epsom and Ewell (74%), Rochford in Essex (72%)
and the Mole Valley in Surrey (70%).
After Derwentshire, the lowest percentages of
abortions were seen in Torridge in Devon (27%), Merthyr Tydfil
(28%) and Ashfield, Notts, (30%).
In Scotland, where the figures are collected
differently, variations in abortions among young women aged
13 to 19 ranged from 49% in Grampian to 32% in Shetland.
The researchers found that motherhood at an
early age was more acceptable and “normal” in
Interviews with 100 teenagers found that all
those who chose an abortion had found it stigmatising, and
many thought they should keep their plans secret from parents.
Some young women said that they had found doctors’
attitudes upsetting when they voiced disapproval of teenage
pregnancy and abortion.
The researchers found that abortion rates were
higher in areas with more extensive family planning services,
where there were more women GPs and where women had easier
access to independent abortion services.
Ellie Lee, co-author of the report, said: “When
an unplanned pregnancy occurs, it is clear that most young
women perceive the outcome as first and foremost their decision.
“Yet the evidence shows that their views
are shaped by factors that include social deprivation, the
attitudes of family and friends and the accepted ’norms’
of behaviour in the communities where they live.”
Ms Lee said they would like to see more initiatives
that helped raise the expectations of young mothers, especially
with education and future careers.
“At the same time we believe that young
women who choose abortion should have their choice respected
and have better access to services of a more consistent quality
than currently exists.
“Abortion needs to be de-stigmatised and
the case made more strongly for viewing it as a morally acceptable
aspect of reproductive health care and family planning,”
Roger Ingham, director of the Centre for Sexual
Health Research, said: “Young women have fairly positive
experiences of medical services, but there are areas where
improvement is needed.
“These include access to second trimester
procedures and more sympathetic and caring treatment of young
women during consultations and when the abortion procedure