A new report has shown that over half of the women who accessed a termination in 2016 were using a least one form of contraception.
BPAS chief executive Anna Furedi said the figures dispel the enduring, sexist myth that women who have abortions are simply feckless and irresponsible.
The research has shown that, of the 60,000 who availed themselves of BPAS abortion services last year, over a quarter were using hormonal contraceptives. When combined with all of those who said they were using barrier methods, the proportion of women using at least one form of contraceptive rose to 51%.
In an opinion piece in The Telegraph, Furedi argued that the research raises important questions about the way we frame the conversation on both contraception and abortion.
She said the fact contraception lets women down is an “uncomfortable truth” that people don’t want to face, and that access to abortion always has to be part and parcel of birth control and reproductive rights.
Criticising a narrative that is focused solely on contraception and preventative methods, Furedi added: “Claims that contraceptive services can prevent abortion are a convenient lie peddled by wishful thinkers who know nothing of method failure rates, or who are morally opposed to abortion but find it easier to argue that it should be prevented than prohibited.”
She went on to single out the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and the upcoming Family Planning 2020 conference for their problematic attitudes to abortion in the developing world.
“FP2020 is significantly controlled by Melinda Gates who sees abortion - and especially unsafe abortion - as a problem to be prevented by contraception,” said Furedi, “not as a partner to contraception in giving women control over their fertility.”
Furedi also highlighted several of the ongoing problems with contraceptive services currently on offer to women, including unpleasant side effects and increased cancer risks with hormonal birth control and relying on a doctor to remove and insert certain barrier methods in invasive and potentially painful procedures.
As this week’s figures well and truly prove, contraception can and does fail even when used with precision – and even the most effective forms of birth control, IUDs and implants, are not the most practical or pleasant for women in their every day lives.
Abortion rates in England and Wales reached a five-year high in 2015, when 185,824 terminations were recorded.
However, the conception rate among young people has fallen to its lowest since records began in 1969 and half of women accessing abortion already have one child which, again, dispels the stereotypes of who seeks and abortion and why.
Images: Getty/Rex Features