Record number of women in Wigan had an abortion last year
A record number of women in Wigan had an abortion last year, figures show, amid a relaxation in rules around seeking treatment at home.
The availability of pill treatment for home abortions during the Covid-19 pandemic is believed to be behind a rise in procedures across England and Wales, say pregnancy experts.
A total of 1,309 terminations were reported in Wigan in 2020, Department of Health and Social Care figures show: a rise of 11 per cent from the 1,175 recorded in 2019. It was also the highest number reported in a year since comparable local figures began in 2012.
The proportion of abortions which were medical, as opposed to surgical, rose from 73 per cent in 2019 to 85 in 2020.
The increase is partly a result of a temporary change in Government policy which allows women to take the two pills, enabling an early abortion in their own home, the DHSC said. Until April last year, the first pill, mifepristone, had to be taken at a registered clinic or hospital. A proposal to make the rule change permanent is under consideration.
The British Pregnancy Advice Service said home abortions had been “transformative” for women, adding that transport issues, job uncertainty and abusive relationships had previously led to some to obtain the treatment illegally.
Clare Murphy, chief executive of the group, said: “The increase in numbers may reflect the fact that as a result of early abortion at home becoming lawful, women no longer need to seek help outside regulated providers.
“We didn’t need a pandemic to know that the ability to access early abortion at home would be transformative for women - particularly those in the most challenging circumstances.”
In Wigan, the abortion rate among women aged between 30 and 34 saw the biggest increase, rising from 18 per 1,000 women in 2019 to 24 last year. But the procedure was most common in women among those aged between 20 and 24, at a rate of 45 per 1,000.
The DHSC said it expected to make a decision on its proposal for home abortions later this year following a three-month consultation which ended in February.
A spokesperson added: “Safe and continued access to key services has been, and remains, our priority.”
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