Thousands of women had four abortions
A Human Being at 20 Weeks
A Human Being at 20 Weeks
"Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide."______________________
-John Adams, Letter, April 15, 1814
By Laura Donnelly and Melissa Kite
Thousands of British women have had four or more abortions, including dozens who have undergone six by the age of 30.
Figures uncovered by the Telegraph show that almost 4,000 women have had at least four abortions. In a "grotesquely bleak" picture of British society, scores of women have had at least eight terminations.
The figures emerged as the row over controversial changes to fertility law erupted into a bitter war of words, with a minister accusing "anti-abortion" MPs of trying to "hijack" legislation.
On the eve of a crucial Commons vote, Dawn Primarolo, the Public Health Minister, accused Tory backbenchers of an underhand attempt to remove the right to abortion by tabling amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.
In an interview with the Telegraph, she also accused MPs who oppose the creation of hybrid embryos of putting forward "extreme and untrue arguments".
Nadine Dorries, the MP leading the campaign to reduce the abortion time limit from 24 to 20 weeks, hit back at the criticism, while revealing that she has received hate mail over her stance. Miss Primarolo made her comments as the Government braced itself for a difficult two days of debate on the Bill, which has been denounced by Christian MPs and clerics.
Gordon Brown was forced to concede free votes on key aspects of the legislation after three Roman Catholic members of his cabinet made clear they would vote against the measures. A free vote will also be allowed on abortion amid unease about the number of late terminations carried out for "social" reasons.
It emerged on Saturday that NHS doctors were refusing to carry out late procedures and that 75 per cent of the 7,000 terminations performed after 17 weeks of pregnancy each year were being carried out at private clinics and charities.
Department of Health figures uncovered by this newspaper show that during 2006 more than 3,800 women underwent at least their fourth abortion, including more than 1,300 who were on their fifth or more. Of more than 60,000 women who underwent a "repeat" abortion, almost 15,000 were on their third.
These included 65 women who had their sixth abortion by the age of 30, and 82 girls aged under 18 who had already experienced three, and more than 50 women who had had eight abortions or more.
On Saturday night, campaigners for legal changes expressed shock at the picture uncovered. Dr Peter Saunders, general secretary of the Christian Medical Fellowship, said: "This is just so grotesquely bleak." He said the situation was "approaching the sorts of things we used to hear about Soviet Russia.
"When you try to imagine a woman who has had eight abortions, or perhaps more, it is absolutely clear that she is using it as a form of contraception." Meanwhile, Ms Primarolo criticised Conservatives who have tabled abortion votes, including Ms Dorries, saying she did not believe them when they said they were simply trying to reform the law.
She said: "If they are being honest, they are saying they don't like abortion. They want to prevent it entirely and they see that gradually changing the time limit down is the way to do it, because there isn't support to completely change the '67 Act.
"This Bill is so important and, frankly, it's been hijacked and it's not right."
Ms Dorries pointed out that the Embryology Bill had been specifically drafted to allow abortion amendments and that ministers had initially hoped it would offer Labour MPs a chance to liberalise abortion further. Now that this had backfired, they were complaining.
"They don't like it because it has not gone their way," she said. The Mid-Bedfordshire MP added: "I'm an advocate of fast, safe, free access to abortion, especially in the first trimester. My only problem is with late abortion."
She revealed in an article in the Telegraph on Saturday that she has received hate mail for her stance. The word "bitch" was smeared on her window and dismembered dolls posted to her.
"The number of abusive phone calls, emails and letters we have received are too numerous to mention," she said.
Abortion by numbers:
- 22,000 abortions in England and Wales in 1968, the first year they were legal
- 193,700 in 2006
- Of these 7,123 carried out after 17 weeks
- 3,000 carried out after 20 weeks, a 44% increase in a decade
- 2,000 carried out on the grounds that the child would be born handicapped
- 7,400 carried out on non-UK residents
- 24% of abortions undertaken by NHS
- 67% carried out at independent clinics under NHS contracts
- 9% self-funded
- £500 is the average cost of an abortion up to 12 weeks involving no anaesthetic
- 33% of British women will have an abortion by the age of 45 (excluding Northern Ireland)