The number of abortions carried out in Bolton are at record levels, with older women behind the rise ­— it comes as sexual health services in the borough are cut, writes SAIQA CHAUDHARI

THE number of pregnancies terminated in Bolton is at its highest level, with the biggest increase recorded in those over 25-years-old.

Data published by the department for health and social care reveal abortion rates in the town are higher than the national average.

Figures show there were 1,178 abortions for women in Bolton in 2018 up on 1,099 in 2017 and 1086 in 2016 ­— a seven per cent increase on the previous two years.

A breakdown of the numbers reveal the biggest increase was in the 30-34 age group where the number of abortions rose from 210 to 244.

The second largest increase was in the 35-plus group where the numbers increased by 32 to 185.

In the 25-29 age category they increased by 17 to 320.

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Abortions carried out on under-18s increased by just one to 39 and 18-19-years-old increased from 82 to 94. Terminations decreased in the 20-24 category from 309 to 296

Cuts to sexual health services and availability of contraception service older women are said to blame for the rise.

The abortion rate for 25-29 stood at 33.6 per 1,000 women compared to a Greater Manchester rate of 30.4 and a national rate of 25.3

The Bolton News reported on Friday that Bolton Council is slashing funding for sexual health services over the next three years.

This is on top of reductions in the number of local sexual health clinics.

A Bolton Council spokesman said: “Between 2017 and 2018 abortion rates for women aged between 15 and 44 years living in Bolton have increased slightly.

“This reflects similar trends for Greater Manchester and England as a whole where rates have also increased.

“Although abortion rates for Bolton are higher than those for England, rates are comparable with many local areas in the North West.

“Access to a range of contraception methods is an effective way of preventing and reducing unplanned pregnancies.

“Bolton Council’s Public Health Directorate is committed to ensuring the commissioning of high quality sexual and reproductive health services for local people.

“Bolton NHS Foundation Trust’s SHINE clinic is commissioned to provide confidential family planning support and advice and all forms of contraception.

“The service also provides diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections and complications including HIV.

“These services can be accessed through Royal Bolton Hospital and Lever Chambers in the town centre.

“People can also access routine contraception through their local GP and a number of practices also provide long acting reversible contraception procedures (LARC) such as implants and coils.”

“Emergency hormonal contraception (the morning after pill) is also available at pharmacies across Bolton.”

Marie Stopes UK which provides reproductive healthcare said women in the higher age group need access to good contraception services.

The organisation’s medical director Imogen Stephens said: “These figures come at the same time as we are hearing stories from women that they have become pregnant while trying to access effective contraception.

“Today, more than eight million women of reproductive age live in an area where the council has reduced funding for sexual and reproductive health services, leading to the closure of clinics and longer waiting lists.

“When women do manage to find a service, they may be denied the full range of contraception, including some of the most effective methods.

“Overall, abortion rates are increasing among older women, while rates for younger women are falling.

“This illustrates that women need access to good contraception services across their reproductive lifetimes, from the point at which they become sexually active right through to their menopause.”

Nationally there were there were 200,608 abortions for women resident in England and Wales in 2018, up four per cent on the 192,900 the previous year.

Clare Murphy, director of external affairs at abortion provider the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said: “The reasons for the increase in abortions for older women in England and Wales are complex.

“Accessible contraceptive services are often focused on the needs of younger women and women over the age of 25 can in particular find themselves excluded from schemes providing free, pharmacy access to emergency contraception.

“As so many women in the UK rely on pills and condoms as their main methods of contraception, it is vital that there is swift access to emergency options when those methods fail or a pill is missed.”

She said greater access to services was also needed for women who are already mothers.

“Unplanned pregnancy in the year after birth is not uncommon, particularly among women who are breastfeeding,” she said .

“However, it is also possible that over the longer term couples are making different decisions about family size and the number of children they can afford.”

Clare McCarthy, spokeswoman for the Right to Life charity, said:”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.”

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