12th June, 2014

Figures released by the Government today show the lowest rate of abortion in England and Wales for 16 years.

Sexual health charity FPA's acting Chief Executive, Dr Audrey Simpson OBE, said:

"Hopefully this continued decrease in the abortion rate is a result of messaging about emergency contraception getting through and proof that women are taking less risks with their sexual health.

"However, recent research has shown that millions of women in England live in an area where the local authority has no strategy in place to reduce unplanned pregnancy and we know many face restrictions on accessing sexual health and contraceptive services – including because of their age, and the postcode lottery of commissioning arrangements where they live.

"Access to contraception is a right, not a luxury, and it is essential that local authorities keep sexual health as a top priority when it comes to public health budgets.

"The rates for women travelling from Northern Ireland are not very reliable as we know some use false addresses, or the addresses of relatives in England. And we know that some travel elsewhere for an abortion, including to the European mainland.

"We also suspect that more women are buying abortion pills online due to the financial difficulties associated with travelling outside of Northern Ireland to access an abortion.

"Until we legalise and regularise abortion in Northern Ireland, in line with the rest of the UK, we will never know the true picture of how many women are subjected to discriminatory legislation.

"Of course what these statistics don’t tell us, as women continue to face the threat of life imprisonment for having an abortion, is the unknown number forced into continuing with a pregnancy that they can’t cope with."