Wednesday 19 June 2019

Final Results

Repeal the Eighth Amendment?

Yes 66.40% 1,429,981

No 33.60% 723,632

  • Constituencies declared: 40/40

Referendum Hub

Women from North set to seek abortions in Donegal

People attend a protest calling for the provision of abortion in the North at Belfast City Hall yesterday. Photo: Niall Carson
People attend a protest calling for the provision of abortion in the North at Belfast City Hall yesterday. Photo: Niall Carson
Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

Donegal could end up with one of the highest abortion rates in the country despite voting against the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

There is growing expectation that the hundreds of women from Northern Ireland who travel to England every year will now stay on the island.

Official figures from the UK Department of Health show that 724 women from the North had an abortion in 2016.

Of those 635 travelled within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, meaning they would be eligible for abortion here once the Government's legislation is introduced.

Northern Ireland has the harshest criminal penalty for abortion of any country in Europe - up to life imprisonment for both the woman having the procedure and anyone helping her.

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone, who championed the referendum, said women from across the Border should now be facilitated in the Republic.

"I hope that by the time that happens that the Executive will have formed, that it is able to move forward in relation to making decisions itself in terms of this issue.

"If that is not the case, then we're their nearest neighbour," she told the Irish Independent.

"I think we need to look at the ways in which we can offer some supports in that regard, in the same way that other countries offered that to the women of Ireland."

The situation in the North is governed by the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act, which was passed 60 years before women had the right to vote.

In the wake of Saturday's landslide result, pressure is mounting on UK Prime Minister Theresa May to begin the process of legalising abortion in the North.

However, Downing Street and the DUP have said responsibility for such issues lies with the Assembly in Stormont, which hasn't sat in almost 18 months.

Government sources in Dublin admitted that women who up to now have travelled overseas are likely to seek medical help in Ireland.

Many of them, especially from Derry and Tyrone, are likely to travel to nearby Donegal, which was the only constituency to oppose abortion.

Sixty-three women from Donegal travelled to the UK for an abortion in 2016.

Terminations are illegal in Northern Ireland unless a woman's life is in danger or there is a serious risk to her physical or mental health.

Thirteen pregnancies were terminated in NHS hospitals in Northern Ireland in 2016/17 - three fewer than the previous year.

It is known that 724 women travelled in 2016. Five of them were under the age of 16.

As well as the women who travelled, it is believed 1,438 purchased illegal abortion pills online from one provider in 2015.

Irish Independent

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