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Women's experiences

'Millennium' Abortions
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, 2/3/2000
'England: Millenium blamed for jump in abortions' Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report

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