Thursday, May 31, 2012

'We are destroying lives' — Catholic Church laments Tayside's abortion record

Tayside remains unchallenged as the abortion capital of Scotland, having recorded the highest rate of terminations for the 22nd year in succession.

The figures published by NHS Scotland for 2011 were greeted with sadness by the Roman Catholic Church, whose spokeswoman said: ''This is not a league table you would want to be top of with such depressing regularity.''

The number and rate of abortions has fallen north of the border over the last three years, reversing a rising pattern since the Abortion Act in 1967. 

However, this is not the case in Tayside.

Nationally it stood at 12,471 last year, down from 12,826 in 2010, and at 12 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44.

There were 1,138 abortions in Dundee, Perth and Kinross and Angus last year — a rate of 15 abortions per 1,000 women and up from 14.7 the previous year.

In Fife there were 884 or 12.4 per 1,000 women, down from 897, and much closer to the national average.

There is a clear link between the rate of abortions and the level of deprivation, with the rate in deprived areas as much as double that in more affluent parts of the country.

More than a quarter of the 12,471 women who had terminations in Scotland in 2011 had a previous termination, with Tayside the highest in this category at 35.5%.

Most abortions across Scotland were with women under 24 and the overwhelming majority (93%) were carried out at less than 24 weeks on grounds that continuing with the pregnancy ''would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman''.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: ''We have been working with NHS boards and local authorities to tackle unintended pregnancy and we are moving in the right direction. We are pleased to see that the percentage of women who had their abortion before nine weeks' gestation has increased, as termination earlier in pregnancy provides better health outcomes for the woman and reduces any risk from the procedure.''

A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Dunkeld said: ''Our position is that any abortion is an abortion too many and the message of sanctity of life is one we are trying hard to get across. People continue to ignore it and we are destroying lives — not just the lives of the unborn child but also of the mother. It has been proven that women who lose babies in this way are destroyed by the action they have taken years after the event.''

NHS Tayside commissioner for sexual health Ann Eriksen said: ''We have a number of programmes under way in Tayside which are aimed at reducing the rate of unintended pregnancy and improving sexual health overall. Education campaigns and in particular making contraception, especially long-acting methods, more widely available has helped bring the number of both abortions and teen pregnancies down in the last five years."

''Most general practices in Tayside now offer long-acting methods of contraception. In addition, free condoms are widely available for people under 25. In partnership with our local authority colleagues we are continuing to develop programmes aimed at improving sexual health and relationship education to help young people make informed decisions about their sexual health.''

NHS Fife director of public health Dr Edward Coyle said: ''We note that the total number of abortions in Fife has fallen slightly but it is important to examine further how to respond to reduce this, although it is recognised that rates are higher in areas of deprivation. Services had improved since relocating to Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy, and this allowed more medical abortions than surgical abortions, enhancing the choices available to the women and improving the support offered. We are working across agencies, including the NHS, education, community services and social work to deliver a comprehensive sexual health strategy that improves sex and relationships education and information for the public.''

He added that men and women need to stop to consider the consequences of unprotected sex, including pregnancy, before taking risks.

Condoms should be used to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections, and the role of parents and carers is crucial in explaining and discussing these issues.

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