Sunday 25 August 2019

Fewer women travel for abortion abroad but more buy pills online

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Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Late abortions were performed on 105 women from the Republic in the UK last year on the grounds their baby would be born with a severe disability, including Down syndrome.

The women, who were more than 24 weeks pregnant and granted terminations on special grounds, were among 2,879 who travelled to UK clinics for an abortion in 2018.

Overall, the number of women from the Republic having abortions in UK clinics fell from 3,019 in 2017.

But more women turned to the internet to buy pills to end their pregnancy.

The numbers buying abortion pills online increased to 1,405, up 188 on the previous year.

And 107 sought to buy the medications online in the first three months of this year, despite the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act which became law in January.

The British figures show 17 of the late abortions among women from the Republic last year involved a diagnosis of Down syndrome.

This is not permitted under the new Irish law.

The figures also reflect the numbers of women who had to go abroad to terminate a pregnancy after getting a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality, where the unborn child will not survive.

Termination on these grounds is now permitted in Ireland.

There were 23 abortions among girls under 16 but most were in their 20s and 30s.

However, 238 women were 40 years old or over. Nearly one in five had had a previous abortion.

Seven in 10 of the terminations took place between three and nine weeks of pregnancy.

The new law allows for free unrestricted medical abortion to be carried out by a GP or maternity hospital in Ireland up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.


The figures showing the number of abortions carried out in the Republic since the change of law will not be available until early next year.

Many of the women who went to the UK for abortions or bought pills online were terminating pregnancies as the heated debate on the proposed new abortion law was under way here last year.

The Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act became law in January, allowing unrestricted abortion up 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme revealed that in the first three months of 2019 an internet provider directed all women who contacted their service to the My Options phone line to support them to access medically supervised abortion in Ireland.

Helen Deely of the HSE's crisis pregnancy section said: "The provider reports that 43 of those women received 'additional support' from the online service over the period, compared to 184 women over the same period in 2018."

The Health Products Regulatory Authority reported nine seizures of 104 abortion pills were made in the first three months of 2019.

Ms Deely said: "Women who reached out to an online provider earlier this year may not have been aware that new abortion services had been introduced and are available free of charge in Ireland.

"If a woman is in any way concerned about her health following an abortion, we encourage her to call the My Options service."

The My Options information and counselling service is available from 9am to 9pm Monday to Friday and Saturday 10am to 2pm at or by calling 1800 828 010 (00 353 1 6877044 if calling from Northern Ireland).

It gives details on counselling and the names of GPs who are willing to be named as providers of a medical a bortion.

Irish Independent

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