Monday 20 November 2017

Down syndrome the reason for 40 abortions by Irish women in UK

Unborn babies with Down syndrome accounted for forty of the abortions carried out on Irish women in UK clinics last year. (Stock picture)
Unborn babies with Down syndrome accounted for forty of the abortions carried out on Irish women in UK clinics last year. (Stock picture)
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Unborn babies with Down syndrome accounted for 40 of the 3,400 abortions carried out on Irish women in UK clinics last year.

The women were granted the terminations under a controversial clause which allows for abortion on the grounds the unborn baby is at substantial risk of serious disability.

Overall, 135 women from the Republic had abortions in the UK under this risk of serious disability heading.

They also cited grounds which include fatal foetal abnormalities.

There were nine terminations after a diagnosis of spina bifida and one due to cystic fibrosis.

Fatal foetal abnormalities included 13 unborn babies diagnosed with Edward's syndrome and seven with anencephaly, the annual statistics from the UK's Department of Health revealed.

Overall, the official number of Irish women who had abortions in the UK fell to 3,451 compared with 3,735.

But these official figures, which still amount to more than nine women a day travelling to the UK for an abortion, are acknowledged to be an underestimate of the true number of pregnancies being terminated.

The HSE's Crisis Pregnancy Agency pointed to concerns about the risks faced by women buying medications over the internet for terminations.

A spokeswoman said the medicines' watchdog, the Health Products Regulatory Authority, seized more than 1,000 of these pills bought over the internet in 2014.

Helen Deely, head of the agency, warned: "If a woman takes the abortion pill and has prolonged heavy bleeding, bad pain, fainting, or other complications, it is important that she attends an emergency department or GP straight away."

The figures show a total of 1,311 - more than one in three of the women listed - gave a Dublin address.

Some 280 were from Cork, 156 from Galway and 147 from Kildare.

Nearly seven in 10 women were pregnant for nine weeks or less.

However, nearly one in five had a previous abortion.

There were 18 abortions among girls aged 16 or younger. The highest numbers were among women in the 20s and 30s.

However, 292 women who were 40 years of age or older terminated their pregnancies.

Well over one-third of the women said that they were unmarried.

More than 900 had no partner and 644 were married or in a civil partnership.

Some 74 of the women said they were separated, widowed or divorced.

Commenting on the figures, Niall Behan of the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) said his agency knew from women attending its services that they were increasingly turning to buying abortion pill online. "Irish laws and policies must be reformed," he said

However, Cora Sherlock of the Pro Life Campaign said: "The further decline in the number of women travelling for an abortion is a positive development, particularly when you consider the serious adverse psychological effects of abortion for many women . . .

"Suggestions that availability of abortion pills explains the fall in the number of women travelling for abortion doesn't add up."

Irish Independent

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