Half of the women who apply to Soroka University Medical Center’s public abortion committee to end their pregnancies are teenagers and young women between the ages of 16 and 20, according to a new study by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev students for a bachelor’s degree in health systems management.Hadar Dentas and Sharon Ben-Hamu – under the supervision of Dr. Limor Mann of the Beersheba hospital’s obstetrics and gynecology department – said that in recent years, the number of applicants for legal abortions had increased, despite the efforts to boost young people’s awareness of contraception.They maintained that only a third of teenagers who have sex use contraception, and even among those, knowledge of the subject is not adequate.It was also found that the applicants had a high average of 11.6 years of schooling. Some 37 percent were high school pupils, 26% employees and 22% housewives.Of the 20,000 legal abortions approved each year as reported by the Health Ministry, the applicants in the Negev are younger on average than those in the rest of the country. The two students examined 54 medical files of women who applied for abortion. Nearly 80% of the women were Jewish, 18% Muslim, the vast majority born in Israel and more than half single.They researchers said they had been “shocked” to discover the very young age of half of the applicants in the Negev. When questioned, a majority of the applicants said they had never used contraceptives, or did not know how to use them properly.Condoms are the most common among couples who did use contraception, followed by the pill. “It was also very disheartening to discover that there are so many young women who actually wanted a baby, but seek to abort the fetus out of fear that it will cause them physical harm or that the fetus is not healthy – and that those who didn’t want the pregnancy failed to use contraceptives,” they wrote.They were also surprised that a fifth of the applicants for abortion had previously applied for one in the past.They found that 99% of the applications for abortion were approved by the committee that convened at Soroka, making this body appear to give almost automatic approval and serve mostly as a bureaucratic and educational committee. It may be, the researchers said, that the committee has an important function in reducing illegal abortions.They concluded that health education should be provided to the young single women who do not use contraceptives.Not only are they exposed to sexually transmitted diseases, but when they do want to have children, they may find their fertility harmed by frequent abortions.