'Action needed' on multiple teenage abortions

  • 25 October 2010
  • From the section Health
Contraceptive pill
Long-term contraceptives should be considered as well as the pill, says Bpas

More needs to be done to reduce the number of teenage girls having multiple abortions, the Department of Health has admitted.

More than 100 go into hospital every month in England and Wales for an abortion that isn't their first.

Latest figures show 5,423 under-20s were onto their second abortion and for 62 teenagers it was their fourth.

The situation has barely changed from five years ago when 5,485 under-20s had a second abortion.

Lisa (not her real name) went into denial after falling pregnant at 14 years old.

She had sex for the first time without using contraception.

Food cravings

"I tried to believe I wasn't pregnant," she told Newsbeat.

"My belly was getting bigger, I had food cravings, felt sick at certain smells."

Eventually, Lisa's mum took her to the doctor who confirmed it.

"I was doing my GCSEs at the time and it really distracted me.

"I just felt I wasn't ready. But I was torn between keeping the baby or having an abortion."

Lisa ended up having a termination when she was five months gone.

She says she felt relieved and upset at the same time.

But two years later she fell pregnant again and had an abortion at three months because of pressure from her ex-boyfriend.

Lisa's experience isn't unusual.

The Department of Health (DoH) admits it's concerned that the number of repeat abortions among teens have stayed level over the last five years and says reducing unintended pregnancies is important.

It wants GPs to offer better advice on different forms of contraception.

'Abortion as contraception'

Clare Murphy from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (Bpas) explains: "Teens aren't being made aware of the full contraceptive offers around.

"They tend to go for easier things like condoms and pills, which aren't always reliable.

Seven week old foetus
There's concern the number of women having multiple abortions hasn't fallen

"There needs to be more investment in long-term contraception to help reduce the figures."

Lisa admits that abortions are used as contraception by some of her friends.

She said: "I know girls who've had four. You just ring the doctor, they ask if you're sure, you say, 'Yeah' and then you just get it done."

Pro-life groups want better regulation of abortions and think schools need to teach children about relationships, not just the physical side of sex.

A group that advises ministers on dealing with teenage pregnancies and abortions has just been axed by the government to save money.

The DoH will take on the extra work, but pregnancy charities think it could make tackling the issue even harder.

For Lisa though there are no regrets. She's now 18 and wants to go to university.

She said: "When you're in that situation it's not fair for people to judge.

"Choosing not to be a mum so young was the best decision for me."