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More than 200 women travelled from Ireland to access abortion in England and Wales last year

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Yes Campaigners during the Abortion referendum count at Dublin Castle in 2018. Photo Gareth Chaney Collins

Yes Campaigners during the Abortion referendum count at Dublin Castle in 2018. Photo Gareth Chaney Collins

Yes Campaigners during the Abortion referendum count at Dublin Castle in 2018. Photo Gareth Chaney Collins

Over 200 women accessed abortion in England and Wales last year, statistics released today reveal.

The Irish Family Planning (IFA) said this “paints a stark picture” of Ireland’s abortion laws. 

In 2021, 206 pregnant women accessed abortion in England and Wales, according to the UK’s health and social care department. 

Fifty percent of these abortions were foetal anomaly cases. 

The other 50pc were pregnancies that had not exceeded 24 weeks and the continuation would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman. 

Just 3.4pc of Irish women travelling to England or Wales for an abortion were less than 10 weeks pregnant. 

In the two countries, abortions can be performed up to 24 weeks gestation.

In Ireland, since 2019 and following the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, abortion has been legal and unrestricted up to 12 weeks gestation.

Beyond 12 weeks, women can also access an abortion if continuing the pregnancy would pose a risk to their life or their health.

Abortion is also legal in Ireland after a diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality, but only in cases where two doctors agree that the condition is likely to lead to the death of the infant before or within 28 days of birth.

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Termination for Medical Reasons, a support group for women and families who have been given a diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality, has said that women who know their baby will not survive are still being forced to travel because of the 28-day rule.

CEO of the IFPA, Niall Behan, said the fact that 206 women travelled to the UK for abortion care in 2021 shows that Ireland’s laws are “not good enough”.

He added: “The 2018 Act is denying care to women and girls and forcing them to seek abortion services in the UK. This is an unacceptable injustice.

“We know from our services that the law is also forcing some who present at under 12 weeks of pregnancy to travel outside of Ireland for abortion services. The mandatory three-day wait means that a person who presents after 11 weeks and four days cannot be provided with abortion care in Ireland.”

Mr Beehan said the exclusion from access to terminal services in Ireland is “traumatising” for his clients. 

“We know also that denial of care because of the gestation limit disproportionately burdens the most vulnerable, marginalised and disadvantaged. Exclusions from essential healthcare cause harm. No one should have to leave Ireland for abortion care.

“The 2018 Act has serious flaws which have inhumane and degrading impacts. Forcing pregnant women to access abortion care in another state because of an arbitrary cut off for eligibility in Ireland is a violation of a person’s right to bodily autonomy and self-determination.

“Today’s figures challenge policy makers with the harsh reality of exclusionary and restrictive provisions in the law. We need a legal and operational framework that meets the needs of every pregnant person. This is one of the critical issues that the review of the 2018 Act must address.”

In 2018, the last year that the constitutional ban on abortion was in place, 2,879 women who travelled to the UK for an abortion gave an Irish address.

It is understood that some Irish women would also choose to evade the state’s near ban on abortion by buying pills online.

Legal abortion services were rolled out here in January 2019.

That same year, the number of women who gave Irish addresses at UK abortion clinics dropped to 375.

In 2020, the figure again reduced with 194 women reportedly travelling to the UK from Ireland for an abortion.


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