Monday 14 October 2019

Number of Irish women going to UK for abortions fell in 2017

IFPA chief Niall Behan. Photo: Tom Burke
IFPA chief Niall Behan. Photo: Tom Burke
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

More than 2,570 women from the Republic of Ireland had abortions in the UK last year up to the 12th week of pregnancy.

New figures indicate the level of demand for terminations if the Government brings in legislation allowing for unrestricted abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Another 519 had later abortions, including 118 at 20 weeks of pregnancy or more.

The UK abortion statistics for 2017 overall show terminations among women from the Republic fell from 3,265 in 2016 to 3,091.

However, many are buying abortion pills online instead of travelling.

The HSE's crisis pregnancy agency found that 1,217 women from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland received the medical abortion pill from one internet service.

A second online provider said another 878 women from the Republic used the service.

The figures from UK clinics show 1,393 women from the Republic who had terminations were had a partner while 725 had no partner. A total of 617 were married.

Ten were under the age of 16 and the largest group were in their twenties. A total of 262 were over 40 and 557 had had a previous abortion.

There were 43 terminations on the grounds the baby would be born with Down syndrome.

And 13 pregnancies were terminated due to the fatal foetal abnormality anencephaly, where there is an absence of the major part of the brain. Another 16 involved Edward's syndrome.

The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) said the statistics showed the provision of GP-led medical abortion was "practical and achievable".

Chief executive Niall Behan said: "The UK report gives us important insights that should inform the type of abortion care we introduce to Ireland. The statistics show the vast majority of UK residents who access terminations - 77pc - have abortions at or under nine weeks' gestation.

"Only 0.2pc of all women who have abortions require overnight care."

It shows women from Ireland tend to have abortions later due to the extra burdens of travel, he added.

"We have an opportunity to get services right from the very beginning.

"There should be no reason for women to opt for unregulated pills online.

"Women and girls need to be able to get abortion care in the place that's best for them - whether that's a local GP clinic or a specialist reproductive health centre like the IFPA. And cost must never be a barrier."

Helen Deely, of the HSE's crisis pregnancy service, said: "If a woman takes an abortion pill and has prolonged heavy bleeding, bad pain, faints or experiences other complications, we strongly encourage her to attend an emergency department or GP straight away.

"If a woman is in any way concerned about her health following taking an abortion pill or travelling abroad for an abortion, we encourage her to attend a free post-abortion medical check-up funded by the HSE."

These services are free of charge and the full list of services is available on www.

The Government hopes to publish abortion legislation early next month and have it through much of the Oireachtas before the summer break, moving to committee in the autumn.

Irish Independent

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