Three out of five teenage pregnancies result in abortions in Barnet and Hertsmere, a new study has revealed.

The report from the University of Southampton shows that Barnet and Hertsmere have among the highest teenage abortion rates in the country with girls here three times more likely to choose a termination than mothers in Derwentside, County Durham.

Reasons for the disparity are unclear, but girls from poorer backgrounds are actually more likely to keep a baby with those in the more affluent south preferring an education or career ahead of becoming a young mother.

Researchers at the university also say Barnet and Hertsmere's higher abortion rates show there is good access to counselling, but pro-life campaigners say the NHS often steers girls towards having unnecessary abortions.

Fiona Pinto, from Potters Bar, who stood for the Pro-Life Alliance in the European elections, says girls are not given enough support if they choose to keep their baby, making it seem less of a realistic option when they get counselling.

"It makes my blood boil women do not want abortions," she said.

"There is not much support for these teenagers, and not much money goes into counselling."

A spokeswoman for Barnet Primary Care Trust said it was keen to cut the number of young girls who get pregnant in the first place. She said: "The actual reason why Barnet has a higher teenage abortion rate than the national picture is unknown.

"However, evidence suggests that it may be more acceptable to keep a pregnancy in lower social economic groups than for the higher economic groups.

"Barnet, on the whole, is an affluent borough.

"It may be that more teenagers decide to remain in education rather than continuing a pregnancy.

"Work is now focused on preventing teenage pregnancy and improving accessibility to services in Barnet for young people."

The study describes how, despite the final choice remaining with the mother, social factors like the importance of education and career aspirations play a crucial role in whether a pregnancy is stopped.

Ellie Lee, a co-author of the report, added: "The evidence shows that their views are shaped by factors that include social deprivation, attitudes of family and friends and the accepted 'norms' of behaviour in the communities they live in."