The number of abortions performed on teenage girls who have had at least one before has risen by almost 70 per cent since 1991, fuelling fears that terminations are being carried out for lifestyle reasons.
Experts yesterday warned that binge drinking among teenagers had also contributed to the increase.
In 2007, 5,897 girls under 20 had their second, third or even fourth termination.
Sixteen years earlier, in 1991, the figure stood at just 2,934, the journal Contraception reported.
The analysis by scientists at Nottingham University, found that – even taking into account the rise in abortion among all age groups – the proportion of repeat terminations carried out on teenagers rose by 68 per cent in 16 years.
Abortions in the UK have reached record levels – almost 200,000 a year in England and Wales – a rate second only in the western world to the U.S. Researcher Jacqueline Collier, a professor of health services research, said that although there were probably many reasons behind the ‘radical increase’ in repeat abortions in teenagers, it is likely that alcohol played a part.
Calling for more research into the issue, she said: ‘It is right for us to put it as a priority. It is not good for society, let alone for teenagers, to be having repeat terminations or repeat pregnancies they are not wanting or not able to continue with.’
When all age groups are included in the analysis, a third of terminations are carried out on women who have had at least one before.
The evidence shows that some women have had eight or more.
Thirteen girls aged under 18 were on at least their fourth abortion in 2007, the Department of Health figures showed.
Dr Trevor Stammers, a GP and a lecturer in healthcare ethics, said: ‘I think that young women who have had one abortion fall into two camps.
‘There is one that understands the ongoing consequences and another that (is) very cavalier and hardened about it and have entered a phase of regarding it as a backup method of contraception.
‘We have got to communicate that abstinence is not folly.’
Norman Wells of Family and Youth Concern, which campaigns against family breakdown, said we were living in a ‘contraceptive culture’.
He added: ‘High abortion rates and the alarming number of repeat teenage abortions are the inevitable fruit of a society that has made an idol of sexual pleasure and failed to respect its proper place and purpose.’
But Ann Furedi of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, which carries out almost a third of UK abortions, said: ‘A lot has changed the past two decades.
‘Abortion has become more acceptable, easier to access for all age groups, better funded by the NHS, and more integrated into mainstream healthcare – all of which are good things.’
She added: ‘Everyone agrees that it would be better for young people to avoid unwanted pregnancies and there is an extensive range of research and ongoing practical initiatives to address this.
‘All of these moves contribute to young people feeling more able to make choices about whether or not they should have sex and how best to handle the consequences.