The number of girls under the age of 14 having an abortion jumped by over 20 percent in 2007, new figures from the Department of Health show, leading to calls for more government-backed sexual health counselling and contraception services.
The total number of abortions rose in all age groups in England and Wales according to the statistics released Thursday, but most striking was the rise in terminations among teenagers as a higher proportion of pregnancies are aborted.
The Department of Health said the number of abortions among under-14s had gone from 135 in 2006 to 163 in 2007, an increase of 21 percent.
There was also a 10 percent rise among the under-16s to 4,376 abortions.
Kaye Wellings, professor of sexual and reproductive health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said of the under-14 figures: "The increase in abortions in this age group fits the pattern in women aged under 18 generally, that is, a higher proportion of pregnancies are terminated.
"This is bringing us in line with other European countries, where fewer pregnancies lead to live births than in the UK.
"The main goal, of course, is to reduce the number of pregnancies in young women."
Gill Frances, chairman of the Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group, called for more government investment in contraceptive services for young people.
"It is critical that investment in contraception is urgently reviewed and the recent monies located," Frances said.
Her view was echoed by Julie Bentley, chief executive of FPA (formerly the Family Planning Association): "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."
In total, 198,500 pregnancies were terminated in England and Wales last year, an increase of 2.5 percent on 2006. There were a further 7,100 abortions to women not resident in England and Wales in 2007.
The highest abortion rate was for women aged 19 at 36 per 1,000.
Just last month, MPs failed in their attempt to cut the upper time limit for abortions from 24 to 22 weeks.