The number of pregnant teenage girls choosing to have an abortion has tipped over the halfway mark, new figures are expected to show.
Of around 40,000 pregnancies among girls aged 18 or younger, more than 20,000 ended in abortion.
Abortion campaigners have welcomed the news as a “positive sign”.
The Government, which is on course to fall dramatically short of its 2010 target to reduce teenage pregnancies, has defended its approach of handing out free contraception to teenagers.
However, campaigners have blamed a sexualised culture and an unwillingness to encourage teenagers to delay sexual activity.
Phyllis Bowman of Right to Life said: “Contraception campaigners and clinics depend for their living on providing contraception and abortion to underage girls.
“The Government listens to them, but they are responsible for this disaster.”
She added: “The young have been deliberately sexualised in a culture which sneers at the idea of telling teenagers they should not have sex.”
Conservative MP Julian Brazier said: “This is a further sickening indicator of a society that has broken down and lost its moral compass.”
However, Ann Furedi, head of abortion provider the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) said the figures were “a positive sign” that “teenagers felt able to end their pregnancy in abortion”.
She added: “If they have other plans for their teenage years aside from motherhood, they felt more able to make that choice.”
Mrs Furedi is among prominent figures in the sex education lobby whose recommendations for statutory sex education at primary and secondary schools have been accepted by the Government.
Reacting last year to news that 15 twelve-year-olds had abortions in 2004, Mrs Furedi said: “This is a tiny number of girls. Children grow up very quickly in our society.
“They are maturing faster physically, psychologically and socially, and society just has to come to terms with that.”
Responding to this week’s teen abortion figures a Department of Health spokesman defended the Government’s approach: “One of the key aims of this Government, as set out in the Sexual Health and Teenage Pregnancy Strategies, is to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and consequently abortions, through better access to contraception.
“Prescribed contraception is available free of charge under NHS arrangements, and the Department of Health has recently invested additional funds to allow for improvements in contraception services.”
In February this year the Government said it would plough another £20.5 million into the provision of sex clinics, long-term contraceptive implants and advertising campaigns.
The announcement coincided with news that the number of teenage conceptions, which has remained fairly steady since the target to halve it by 2010 was set in 1998, actually rose slightly in 2007.