Wednesday, October 21News For London

Contraceptive Funds Cut: Warning over unwanted pregnancies

Council cuts to contraception pills could lead to an increase in unwanted pregnancies and abortions, research reveals.

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Photo: Flickr (outcast104/CC)

Public clinics offering women contraception are closing down or reducing their opening hours due to the Whitehall cuts to local council’s public health budgets.

According to The Advisory Group on Contraception (AGC) research, cuts to contraception could mean “more unplanned pregnancies and abortions” This research came after government’s announcement regarding public health cuts of more than £800m over six years.

The findings according to data obtained under Freedom of Information by AGC prompted warnings from sexual health experts regarding an increase in abortions. Councils have started to reduce their contraceptive services and may continue to do so. Natika Halil, the chief executive of the Family Planning Association commented:“Councils are between a rock and a hard place when faced with cuts to public health budgets, but it’s a false economy to restrict women’s access to contraception.”

Halil cited research showcasing that every pound spent on contraception saves £11 in health costs, for example from women going on to have a baby or an abortion .“Making it harder for women to choose the right contraception for them will mean more unplanned pregnancies and more abortions,” she said.

Abortion rates, per 1,000 women aged 15-44, by CCG region in England and Wales, 2015. (Source: Department of Health UK)
Abortion rates, per 1,000 women aged 15-44, by CCG region in
England and Wales, 2015. (Source: Department of Health UK)

According to Abortion statistics in England And Wales 2015, the total number of abortions has increased by 0.7% than 2014 (184,571) and 0.3% less than in 2005 (186,416).  The funding for about 98% of abortions came from NHS, out of which 5,190 abortions for non-residents carried out in hospitals and clinics in England and Wales (5,521 in 2014).

Most contraception for women is presently funded from councils’ public health budgets. Former Chancellor George Osborne announced in 2015 that there would be a £200m cut to public health budgets from April 2015 to April 2016. With the budget cut on contraceptive pills, this could increase in the future.

Experts are concerned that if funding cuts continue at the same rate, there will be an “escalation” in teenage pregnancy. Unplanned pregnancy and abortion rates are feared to rise as well.

“All these new methods of contraception have been developed, which have been so much more reliable, and given women so much reproductive control. If we remove those choices again it’s an enormous step backwards. Those great steps forward that we’ve made to help women plan pregnancy at a time that’s convenient for them, all that work will be undone.” said Jane Dickson, an NHS sexual health consultant told the BBC.

Social media burst with comments and opinions on the matter.

The report, which s based on a FoI, requested response from all 152 councils in April, to which 140 responded.

It revealed about about a third of women of reproductive age living in England – reside in areas where contraceptive services are restricted in one way or another.