By Ellie Lee
According to Marie Stopes International (MSI), the numbers
of women who had an abortion at their clinics over January
and February this year was up 20 per cent compared with
last year. In January and February, Marie Stopes arranged
6,900 abortions at its seven clinics compared with 5,759
during the same two months in 1999.
MSI suggested that the jump in numbers of abortions may
be the result of 'millennium excesses and lack of access
to emergency contraception over the holidays'. Deputy chief
executive of Marie Stopes clinics, Helen Axby said that
'clearly over a very special time like the Millennium, people
do get carried away'.
Press reports about the reported rise in abortions said
the explanation being given for the rise in numbers of women
seeking abortion is 'Millennium sex'. The Independent reported
that 'Millennial excesses' were being blamed, and The Times
newspaper that 'abortion soared' in the aftermath of the
millenium holiday, 'indicating and extraordinary lapse of
caution among British adults'. The Daily Mail claimed that
'Millennium night passion has sent abortion rates rocketing',
and the Telegraph that the rise in abortions follows 'an
increase in casual sex during Millenium celebrations'. The
Guardian said that 'Excess drinking and partying over the
millenium, combined with lack of access to emergency contraception'
were being blamed for the rise.
Helen Axby claimed that the rise in abortions at their clinics
over the last two months may be the 'tip of the iceburg'.
The increase in numbers of women seeking abortion could
be set to continue over coming months, and if figures were
indicative of abortion rates at other clinics, she said
an extra 9000 women would terminate pregnancy in the first
four months of this year, compared with last year.
Other commentators pointed out that figures from Marie Stopes
clinics may not indicate the beginning of an extraordinary
rise in numbers of women seeking abortion. While after the
Christmas holidays abortion numbers always rise, Ann Furedi,
speaking for British Pregnancy Advisory Service said that
figures from BPAS did show a notable increase in some areas
compared with previous years, and 'at other places the figures
are the same as last year.'
It was also suggested that difficulties exist in providing
a clear-cut explanation for the increase in the number of
women seeking abortion at Marie Stopes clinics. The rise
in abortions noted this year at certain clinics may be the
result of a number of factors, rather than 'millennium sex'.
Since Marie Stopes clinics are mainly situated in London,
the rise may not be generally reflected nationwide.
Also, women may have been unable to access NHS abortion
services. Furedi suggested that over the Millenium period
the NHS may have put available money into other services,
'leaving less cash available to fund abortions'.
The closure of GP surgeries, and the particular pressure
placed on hospitals because of the 'flu outbreak may also
have led women to access abortion through another route,
and the closure of other abortion clinics over the Christmas
period may also be relevant.
'Millenium abortions soar', The Times, 2/3/00
'Abortion, the Millenium party hangover', Daily Mail, 2/3/2000
'Abortions rise by 20 per cent after Millenium celebrations',
Daily Telegraph, 2/3/2000
'Millenium night led to 20% rise in abortions', Independent,
'England: Millenium blamed for jump in abortions' Kaiser
Daily Reproductive Health Report