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UK's HFEA releases termination of pregnancy data

9 June 2010
Appeared in BioNews 562

Data recently obtained by the Sunday Times newspaper, via a Freedom of Information Act enquiry to the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), show that an average of 80 pregnancies achieved through IVF treatment are terminated each year.

Less than half of these abortions are undertaken by women aged between 18 and 34 years, the healthiest time for a woman to get pregnant, when complication rates and fetal abnormality rates are low. Nonetheless, this has prompted speculation that the abortions are carried out for 'social' rather than medical reasons.

The figures include women who paid for the £4000 to £8000 IVF treatment, as well as those who received it free on the NHS. Also included are women who would have had abortions for medical reasons, such as selective reduction, where fetuses in a multiple pregnancy are terminated to reduce the risks to the mother and babies.

'For infertile people, overcoming the problem becomes a goal in itself', said Ann Furedi, head of BPAS, formerly the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, who believes that every abortion doctor in the UK sees at least one patient a year who requests a termination after IVF.

'Sometimes it is only when women get pregnant that they can allow themselves to ask the question about whether it is really what they want', added Furedi.

Some fertility doctors expressed surprise at the finding. Professor Bill Ledger, head of reproductive and developmental medicine at Sheffield University, said that he had no idea there were so many post-IVF abortions. 'These women can't be surprised to be pregnant, you can't have an IVF pregnancy by accident', he said.

The HFEA released a statement regarding pregnancy terminations following IVF, saying that 'IVF is not a procedure that is undertaken lightly, and we know what it means personally to the many women who make this decision every year. All patients who undergo IVF are assessed, as are the implications for any child that might be born, in advance of the decision to treat'.

The HFEA states that the number of terminations following IVF is less than one per cent each year, and that although it does not collect data about the legal grounds for termination, it does collect information (where disclosed) about the reasons for termination. Going by this information, the number of 'social' or 'psychological' cases appear to be few.

The findings have sparked fears from ex-Conservative minister Ann Widdecombe that women undergoing IVF are treating babies like 'designer goods', and that if the law was applied correctly, they would not be able to undergo abortions simply because they have changed their minds.

Britain's most successful fertility doctor, Mohamed Taranissi, has called for an enquiry from the HFEA. 'It's a matter that should be looked at. The HFEA should be much more open with the data they have', he said.

80 women a year abort babies conceived with IVF
The Express |  7 June 2010
Dozens of IVF babies aborted 'after women change their minds about becoming a mother'
The Mail |  7 June 2010
Dozens of woman are having abortions following fertility treatment
The Telegraph |  7 June 2010
IVF babies aborted as mothers lose in love
Times online |  6 June 2010
Test-tube women change minds
The Sun |  7 June 2010
22 November 2010 - by Dr Juliet Guichon 
Canada's National Post reported last month that two British Columbians who had hired a 'surrogate' mother, changed their minds and wanted the woman to abort (1). The fetus apparently had Down's syndrome. The pregnant woman resisted abortion but then acquiesced...
26 July 2010 - by Dr Vivienne Raper 
The UK's fertility watchdog, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), could be split up as the Government's 'bonfire of the quangos' continues....
28 June 2010 - by Laura Riley 
The UK's Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has released a Working Party report, Termination of Pregnancy for Fetal Abnormality. The report found that it was not 'realistic' to seek to produce a definitive list of conditions that constitute 'serious handicap' for clinicians to use in interpreting the legal grounds for abortion under the 1967 Abortion Act...
14 June 2010 - by Seil Collins 
A new study looking at the economic costs and consequences of assisted reproductive technology (ART) has concluded that governments reap long-term economic benefits from funding ART services...
11 June 2010 - by Ann Furedi 
The revelation in the UK's Sunday Times newspaper (6 June 2010) that some assisted conceptions end in abortion was bound to cause consternation....
24 May 2010 - by Rosemary Paxman 
IVF could become the routine method of conception for 30-40 year olds within a decade, scientists predict...
24 May 2010 - by Harriet Vickers 
A 59 year-old woman has backed out of IVF treatment at the last minute, as she feels the risks at her age are too great...
17 May 2010 - by Sarah Pritchard 
A 62-year old Bulgarian woman has reportedly become the country's oldest first-time mother to give birth to twins after IVF treatment. 'Age was not an obstacle for me, I so much wanted to have children', said Krasimira Dimitrova from the Northern city of Ruse, who sought treatment with IVF after Bulgarian authorities refused to allow her to adopt a baby, on account of her age....
10 May 2010 - by Dr Tamara Hirsch 
Rising IVF costs may drive up Australian multiple birth rates and put women's health at risk, according to some clinical specialists....
4 May 2010 - by Seil Collins 
The number of reported mistakes at IVF centres in England and Wales has doubled over one year, rising from 182 in 2007/08 to 334 in 2008/09. Incidents range from technical failures to serious mix-ups. Cases where embryos have been lost, implanted into the wrong patient, or fertilised with the wrong sperm have all been reported....
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