The number of abortions among under 14s rose by more than a fifth last year, one of the biggest increases in terminations across all age groups, the government said on Thursday.
There were 135 abortions carried out among under 14s in England and Wales in 2006, rising to 163 in 2007, according to Department of Health figures. But it was less than a peak of 168 in 2002.
The Family Planning Association (FPA) charity said the figures showed the need for more sex education in schools.
“Now must be the time to make sex and relationships education compulsory and taught in every school in the country,” Chief Executive Julie Bentley said.
“Younger women are making different choices about their lives and choosing abortion over motherhood, but education and contraceptive services will stop them becoming pregnant in the first place.”
Abortions among 14-year-olds also rose, by 11 percent to 1,008. The number among under 15s rose 12 percent to 1,171.
The total number of abortions carried out on girls too young to legally have sex rose 10 percent to 4,376.
Concerns about teenage sex and unwanted pregnancies were fuelled by figures which showed 19-year-olds having the highest rate of abortions for the second year in a row, at 36 per 1,000 women, compared with 35 in 2006.
Across all age groups, there was a 2.5 percent increase in abortion numbers to 198,500. In 2003, it was 181,600.
Abortions fell in general among women in their 30s.
Terminations among non-residents numbered 7,100, down from 7,400 in 2006.
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), an anti-abortion group, blamed a “conveyor-belt” like approach for the record number of abortions.
“The figures reflect the Department of Health’s policy of performing an abortion as quickly as possible on any woman enquiring,” SPUC’s National Director John Smeaton said.
“The policy includes arm-twisting doctors who are reluctant to refer for abortion.”
The vast majority of the abortions, 90 percent, were carried out at under 13 weeks gestation, with 70 percent at under 10 weeks.
Medical abortions, which use drugs rather than surgery, accounted for 35 percent of the total compared with 30 percent in 2006, but only 1 percent were carried out because of the risk that the child would be born handicapped.
By Avril Ormsby