'I had four abortions - but termination isn't right'

Woman with head in hands Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Women of all ages undergo repeat abortions

A leading abortion provider says more needs to be understood about why some women have repeat terminations.

Marie Stopes UK, which carried out 65,000 abortions last year - many of them for the NHS, has been investigating the issue.

It commissioned phone interviews with over 100 young women who have had more than one abortion.

It says 57% of women were using contraception when they became pregnant, and the women who had had at least one previous abortion were just as likely as women having their first abortion to be in a stable relationship.

Marie Stopes UK says too many women are being let down "by a lack of ongoing support" in choosing and using the most effective method of contraception.

But anti-abortion campaigners say more contraception is not the answer.

'Get's easier'

A 23-year-old woman, whom we have given the false name Lisa, who has had four abortions has said she wants others to learn from her "careless actions".

She said she does not think terminations are right - but she did not wish to have three or four children with different fathers.

She said: "With the first one, you don't know what's going to happen. You're scared and anxious.

"But once you see all the other women there, it doesn't make you feel that bad.

"And it does get easier with the more you have. I know that sounds really bad, but that is just how it is."

'Careless actions'

Lisa had her first abortion at the age of 18. She went ahead with her second pregnancy - and her daughter was born when she had just turned 20.

She then had another abortion when she was 21, and her third and fourth last year - at the age of 22.

Two of the terminations resulted from brief relationships - the other two while she was seeing a man who was drinking and jobless.

Lisa said: "I was really careless. I can't blame anyone else.

"I should have been more responsible, because I've killed a life now. And it wasn't that baby's fault.

"I thought that if I could tell my story, maybe young women would think twice about having sex without contraception, or sleeping with guys they don't really know.

"I want to tell other women that abortions aren't just something you should do. It could change your life."

She added: "I've tried the pill, the patch, the injection, the coil and the implant. And they didn't work.

"I bled continuously while I was on them. And the coil gave me pains, so I had to take that out after a month.

"No one wants to keep on having terminations - so I have tried different methods of contraception but they don't seem to work for me."

'No sex education'

Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption Anti-abortion campaigners say more contraceptive access is not the answer

All of Lisa's abortions took place in the first two months of pregnancy.

She works in the public sector in London, and hopes to buy a house one day.

Lisa said: "When I was in school, there was no kind of sex education talk. My mum and family just brushed it under the carpet.

"The only person that did really help me was the nurse at the clinic at my doctors' surgery.

"They had a clinic every Tuesday for 16 to 19 year olds.

"When you have an abortion, they talk to you about what steps you can take afterwards.

"They give you a lot of help - but at the time you just want to get out of there. You're not really listening."

Lisa said she did not have any regrets.

She added: "I don't think abortion is all right at all. But I did what was best for me and my daughter at the time.

"I don't want to have three or four kids, by three or four different dads."

'Answers needed'

Marie Stopes UK's director of policy, Genevieve Edwards, told me she'd like to see the abortion rate coming down faster.

She said: "Our research shows all sorts of women of all ages can experience repeat unwanted pregnancy.

"In the past we've failed to tackle this, because we didn't want to stigmatise women."

The general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), Paul Tully, said: "Increasing the provision of contraception isn't going to reduce the abortion rate.

"Contraception doesn't address the social, financial and relationship reasons which are usually the drivers for women to seek abortions.

"We need to answer those problems, and then we'll see the abortion rate coming down."

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