The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has welcomed latest figures which show a fall in the number of women under 18 who have had an abortion.
Department of Health abortion statistics for England and Wales for resident women for 2011 reveal that there were 189,931 abortions, a slight rise (0.2%) more than in 2010 (189,574).
The abortion rate was 17.5 per 1,000 resident women aged 15-44, the same as in 2010.
The under-16 abortion rate was 3.4 per 1,000 women and the under-18 rate was 15.0 per 1,000 women, both lower than in 2010 (3.9 and 16.5 per 1,000 women respectively).
In 2011, 36% of women undergoing abortions had one or more previous abortions, more than in 2010 (34%).
Some 91% of abortions were carried out at under 13 weeks gestation. 78% were at under 10 weeks compared to 77% in 2010.
And Medical abortions accounted for 47% of the total, up from 43% in 2010. And there were 2,307 abortions (1%) carried out under ground E - where there is a risk that the child would be born handicapped.
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists vice-President, David Richmond, said: “The number of abortions has risen slightly this year but the drop in abortions for women under 18 is in the right direction.
“We need to continue to attempt to reduce the need in the first place particularly for repeat abortions, consequently, the NHS needs to focus on providing better access to good contraceptive care for women of childbearing age.
Dr Richmond said the system should provide good access to contraception, with a range of options including long acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) in sites which are convenient to women. Similarly, there is also the case for contraception to be offered to women post-abortion to prevent further unwanted pregnancies.
“The statistics show that there was an increase in the number of abortions under 10 weeks which is likely to be linked to the rise in medical abortions, a less invasive procedure that has been shown to be safe and acceptable to women.
“It is vital that in the face of NHS cuts and reform of the service that access to abortion services remains an essential part of women’s healthcare and sits alongside those of contraception and family planning provision.”