Saturday 1 October 2016

Almost 10 women from Ireland had abortion in UK every day last year

Published 17/05/2016 | 14:09

Home pregnancy test. File photo
Home pregnancy test. File photo

There has been a slight fall in the number of women travelling from Ireland to Britain for an abortion, official figures have revealed.

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But records from health chiefs in the UK show 3,451 women gave addresses in Ireland - almost 10 a day - while attending clinics in England and Wales last year.

The report showed there has been a 48% decline in the numbers travelling to terminate a pregnancy since 2001.

The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) said the report does not reflect the actual number of women and girls in Ireland who have abortions and it claimed the use of abortion pills bought online is increasing.

Chief executive Niall Behan said: "We cannot be complacent about this decrease.

"While it is impossible to quantify the extent of their use, abortion pills accessed online have had a significant impact on the decline in the number of women in Ireland seeking abortion services in the UK."

The IFPA called for laws to be reformed to protect women's reproductive health and ensure high quality sex education, contraceptive and abortion services.

Separate figures from the Netherlands - the only other jurisdiction women from Ireland travel for abortion procedures in any significant numbers - showed numbers also falling from 31 in 2010 to 16 in 2014.

There are no records kept on women who travel from the Republic to abortion clinics in Northern Ireland to avail of a termination in limited circumstances.

Abortion is banned in Ireland under the eighth amendment to the Constitution, but a pregnancy may be terminated if there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother including from suicide.

The UK Department of Health figures showed 6,673 women with an address in Ireland travelled for an abortion in 2001.

The numbers fell rapidly to below 5,000 in 2007 and again to below 4,000 in 2012.

The report showed 3,679 women travelled in 2013 and 3,735 in 2014.

Detail on the women who travelled from Ireland to England and Wales last year showed 18 were aged under 16.

Some 46% of women who gave Irish addresses were aged in their 20s and 37% were in their 30s.

The report showed 2,374 of the abortions were carried out in the first nine weeks of the pregnancy and 112 were carried out after 20 weeks or more.

Some 644 women were married or in a civil partnership and 916 were single.

The UK Department of Health said that 135 abortions were carried out after a risk was identified that the child would be born " seriously handicapped".

Niamh Ui Bhriain of the Life Institute said that any decrease in abortion was always welcome, but that it was 'very encouraging to see such a persistent and consistent decline in the past 15 years'.

“Clearly, despite the haranguing Ireland gets from abortion campaigners, we are getting it right in that women are increasingly seeking a better answer than abortion,” she said. “Making better supports available;  educating people as to the reality of the abortion and the humanity of the baby; helping women; these are better alternatives,” she said. 

“In Britain the abortion rate is 20% - one in every five babies is killed by abortion, but the Irish rate is just 5%, and we welcome that low rate, and are working towards the day when abortion is not sought by any woman, in any jurisdiction. “There is always a better answer to an unexpected pregnancy than to kill the baby,” said the Life Institute spokeswoman.

Meanwhile, Choice Ireland Spokesperson Stephanie Lord said that although there was a slight decrease in the numbers of women traveling from Ireland to Britain for abortions over the last year, it was not necessarily indicative of a fall in the number of women in Ireland actually having abortions.

“There was a 284 person drop in the numbers of women travelling from Ireland to Britain for abortions during 2015, with 3,451 women accessing services in British abortion clinics.

“While some are welcoming the drop in figures, we do not believe that this is indicative of the actual figures of women having abortions as many travel to other European states to access clinics.

“Further to this, we believe many women faced with the financial hardship of travelling overseas to pay for abortions are instead turning to the internet and purchasing the abortion pill online from easily accessible organisations like Women on Web and Women Help Women.

“The British abortion statistics report reinforces the fact that women in Ireland are having abortions every day regardless of what the actual law of this land is and there is now clearly an onus on the government to get on with the business of ensuring our health care service is fit for purpose and move to hold a referendum to repeal the 8th amendment.”

Belfast Telegraph

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