The number of abortions in England and Wales is reaching record levels

The number of abortions in England and Wales has reached record levels, with financial pressure believed to be a factor in why women choose not to have a baby.

There were 251,377 abortions among women living in the two countries in 2022, official figures from the Department of Health and Social Care show. This is the highest number since abortion law was introduced almost 60 years ago and an increase of 17% on the 2021 figure.

Abortion provider MSI Reproductive Choices said it believed the cost of living crisis, combined with a lack of access to contraception due to expanded NHS services, was “playing a greater role” in decisions to have an abortion.

Experts say improved access to home abortions was another factor. Temporary measures introduced during the pandemic allowing the use of early medical abortion pills at home, without the need to go to a hospital or clinic, were made permanent in England and Wales in 2022.

Taking medication at home was the most common procedure, accounting for 61% of all abortions in 2022 – an increase of nine percentage points since 2021, the DHSC said.

The 25 to 29 age group saw the largest increase in abortion rates between 2012 and the latest figures for 2022, from 21.8 per 1,000 women to 31.4 per 1,000.

The UK Pregnancy Advisory Service (Bpas) said a survey of 1,300 women this month found that financial factors had largely or partially influenced the decision to end a pregnancy for 57%, while 36% said they were not on contraception were unable to get what they wanted or had faced delays, leading to unwanted pregnancies and subsequent abortions.

Heidi Stewart, CEO of Bpas, said: “The cost of living crisis has put enormous pressure on women and families, with too many people having to choose between financial stability and having a baby.

“These women also told us that they face long wait times for contraceptive appointments, are turned away by healthcare professionals for specific contraceptive methods, and experience limited options for non-hormonal contraception.”

Sarah Salkeld, UK Associate Clinical Director at MSI Reproductive Choices, said women are able to access care early in their pregnancy “in large part due to the ability to have their abortion in the privacy and comfort of their own home through the telemedicine service ”.

Anti-abortion group Right To Life UK described the overall figures as a “national tragedy” and called for “the urgent restoration of in-person appointments”.

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