Figures show abortion rate among highest on record

Tibbs Pinter, chief executive of 4YP Picture: GREGG BROWN

Tibbs Pinter, chief executive of 4YP Picture: GREGG BROWN

Abortion rates in Suffolk have risen to among the highest on record, it can be revealed.

Abdul Razaq, director of public health and protection at Suffolk County Council

Abdul Razaq, director of public health and protection at Suffolk County Council Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Latest numbers from the Office of National Statistics show 16.7% of pregnancies in the county in 2016 were terminated.

The last time the abortion rate in Suffolk was higher was in 2002 when it hit 17.4%.

However, the latest figure was below the England average of 21.8%.

It comes after the issue was catapulted into the spotlight in May when people in the Republic of Ireland voted to abolish the so-called abortion ban.

It has been legal to terminate a pregnancy in England, Scotland and Wales for around 50 years, but it is still an offence in Northern Ireland.

Kate Dickinson, from Felixstowe, terminated an unplanned pregnancy at 25 because she said her mental health was not stable enough at that time to have a baby.

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The now 32-year-old said there was still stigma around abortion in certain circles, and she wanted to see people speaking more openly about it.

She added: “I don’t see the abortion rate being a bad thing because it means people have autonomy to say what they do with their body. They can decide if economically and emotionally they can go through it. It would be great if we had better sexual health services, access to contraception and sex education to lower that because it doesn’t need to be that high but the fact women can receive these safe abortions is really important.”

In Suffolk cuts to public health budgets have seen face-to-face sexual health support scaled back.

Suffolk Young People’s Health Service, also known as 4YP, is aspiring to launch a sexual health service to support the current NHS provision in the county.

The charity’s chief executive Tibbs Pinter said he was pleased to hear women faced with an unplanned pregnancy were getting help, but added: “It would be nice to think we didn’t need to get to this stage, that young people actually felt they had the opportunity, advice and access to help and support much further down the line.”

Suffolk County Council commissions the county’s sexual health service, called iCaSH Suffolk.

Abdul Razaq, director of public health and protection, said iCaSH worked with GP practices and pharmacies to ensure women had “good access to effective contraception options across the county”.

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