THE abortion rate in Southampton and Hampshire went up slightly last year.

There were 1,105 terminations in Southampton in 2017, a rate of 16.8 for every 1,000 women aged 15-44 compared with 14.8 in 2016.

In Hampshire there were 3,506 terminations in 2017, a rate of 15.3 for every 1,000 women aged 15-44 compared to 13.7 in 2016.

The rate for the whole of England is 16.5 but ranges from 9.6 per 1,000 women in York to nearly three times that rate in Barking and Dagenham.

The highest rate in Southampton was among women aged 25-29 with the lowest women aged over 35.

The figures show that 38% of the cases were classed as repeat procedures for a woman who had a previous abortion.

The highest rate in Hampshire was among women aged 20-24 with the lowest for women aged under 18.

The figures show that 37% of the cases were classed as repeat procedures.

One of the most significant changes at national level in recent years has been a declining rate for younger women and a rising rate for women in their early 30s. This is happening in Southampton where in 2012 the rate for women aged 30-34 was 14.9 per 1,000 and five years later it was 20.6

Dr Kate Guthrie, of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “It’s very encouraging to see a continuing decrease in the abortion rate for young women under 25, and in particular for teenage girls.”

“Meanwhile, abortion rates have been increasing for women aged 30 years and over. This may be due to the increasing number of sexually active women postponing first childbirth until into their 30s, and therefore having more years where contraception is required.”

Most abortions in Southampton were carried out in the first ten weeks of pregnancy, 80%. in Hampshire it was 81%.

Dr Guthrie said: “The reason for choosing abortion may be different in different pregnancies. Women have to make hard choices within their circumstances at the time.

She said that spending cuts leading to pressure on sexual health services were a concern.

“Sustained reduction in the public health budgets has led to widespread sexual health service cut backs.

“It is absolutely crucial for women to have access to effective contraception and sexual health services. This will enable them to take control of their health and fertility by preventing unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.”

In 2017, 189,859 women living in England and Wales had an abortion plus 4,809 women who were non-residents. The data shows that just over 60% of those women came from the Republic of Ireland, where a recent referendum resulted in a vote to change the country’s strict abortion laws.