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British government: Abortions in England, Wales hit record level last year

By  Simon Caldwell, Catholic News Service
  • June 14, 2019

MANCHESTER, England -- Abortions in England and Wales have hit a record level, according to statistics released by the British government.

Updated 2019-06-17:
Added new paragraphs 10, 11 with bishops' comments; added four paragraphs at end.

Updated 2019-06-20:
Title reworded to better reflect statistics.

Figures published online June 13 by the Department of Health revealed that abortions in 2018 rose by 4 percent the previous year.

The 205,295 abortions represented the first time that more than 200,000 have been carried out in a single year.

The previous peak was about 198,000 recorded in 2007. Figures released earlier this year by the Scottish government showed that abortions in Scotland, with over 13,000 in 2018, were also at a 10-year high.

The latest figures reveal significant trends, including a one-third drop in abortions among women under age 19 over a decade; for girls 16-17, the number decrease by half.

Abortions in women ages 20-24 also declined, but the number rose slightly for women over 25, and more steeply for those over 30 years, with 19.9 women ages 30-35 having abortions in 2018 compared to 15.6 per 1,000 women in 2008.

In women over 35, there was a rise from 6.7 abortions per 1,000 women in 2008 to 9.2 per 1,000 in 2018.

The numbers of repeat abortions also went up: 39 percent were second or more abortions. Abortions for babies with Down syndrome increased 42 percent.

One factor that has remained constant is that more than 80 percent of abortions are provided to single women.

Lord Alton of Liverpool, a member of the House of Lords who has campaigned against abortion, told Catholic News Service in a June 14 email the figures were a sign of a "throwaway culture."

"The exponential and shocking terrible loss of life has become a matter of celebration for abortion advocates," said Lord Alton, a Catholic.

"In reality, these figures -- which amount to the violent ending of one life in the womb every three minutes -- represent heartbreak and terrible loss. They are also a stark reminder of the throwaway culture that willfully misuses and casually disposes of everything from precious resources to life itself," he said.

Clare McCarthy of Right to Life UK described the increase as a "national tragedy."

"Every one of these abortions represents a failure of our society to protect the lives of babies in the womb and a failure to offer full support to women with unplanned pregnancies," she said in a June 13 statement sent to CNS.

"Polling shows large majorities of women in the U.K. support changes to our abortion laws that would have a positive impact on lowering the number of abortions," she said. "Seventy percent of women want the current time limit on abortion to be lowered, and 91 percent of women want a ban on sex-selective abortion."

"We are calling on the government to urgently bring forward sensible new restrictions and increased support for women with unplanned pregnancies," she added. "This would ensure we were working together as a society to reduce the tragic number of abortions that happen each year."

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