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Wednesday 24 April 2019

Twenty Irish teenagers are travelling to UK for abortions every month, new figures reveal


Eilish O'Regan and Daniel O'Connor

An average of 20 Irish teenagers are travelling to England and Wales every month to have an abortion, figures from the UK Department of Health show.

The overall number of women from the Republic who had abortions in Britain fell slightly to 3,265 last year.

This is a drop from 3,451 women and girls who gave Irish addresses at UK clinics in 2015.

It brings the number of women who have terminated pregnancies since 1980 to 168,703.

The statistics released this morning show 240 women under the age of 19 had an abortion in the UK during 2016.

Of these 240 females, 66 were under 18 at the time they had the procedure, with 10 being under the age of 16.

This year’s figures brings the number of teenagers have had an abortion in the UK in the last 10 years to 3,888.

This week it emerged that a teenage girl who sought an abortion under Irish legislation was sectioned under Mental Health laws instead.

Her detention came after a psychiatrist shared their opinion that while the girl was at risk of suicide as a result of the pregnancy, this could be managed by treatment and a termination "was not the solution for all of the child's problems".

Her detention was successfully challenged by a guardian ad litem, a person appointed by the court to represent the girl's interests, after another consultant psychiatrist concluded the girl, while depressed, was not suicidal and did not have a mental illness.

Details of the case, which occurred last year, were published by the Child Care Law Reporting Project.

It is unclear whether the teenager subsequently travelled abroad for a termination.

Meanwhile, the HSE has said that recent research shows more women may be buying abortion pills online instead.

Commenting on the latest figures from the UK Niall Behan, chief executive of the Irish Family Planning Association said said: “These reports are an annual indictment of Ireland’s treatment of pregnant women.

“The State excludes women who opt not to continue unintended pregnancies from the health-care system, and, year after year, forces them to seek care outside Ireland: this is reproductive coercion.”

“The vast majority are in their 20s or 30s. They find themselves in circumstances where the decision not to continue an unintended pregnancy is the right one for them.

“Abortion should be a private decision between a woman and her doctor, but they are abandoned by the State and forced to seek care in another country.”

In 2016, 48pc of women and girls who accessed abortion and gave Republic of Ireland addresses were between 20 – 29 years of age, while 37pc  were between 30 – 39 years old.

Women from Ireland tend to access abortion later than those living in the UK. 69pc of women from the Republic of Ireland who accessed abortion services in the UK did so between 3 and 9 weeks gestation; the figure for women resident in England and Wales is 81pc.

Women from the Republic of Ireland constituted the majority (67.9pc) of non-UK residents who accessed abortion services in England and Wales in 2016.

The HSE said the figures compare to 2001 when 6,673 from the Republic had abortions.

This equates to a decrease in the abortion rate from 7.5 per 1000 women in 2001 to 3.2 per thousand women in 2016.

It said that the figures from the Netherlands, which has emerged as the only other jurisdiction to which women from Ireland travel for abortion procedures have also shown a steady decline.

“These figures had been steadily declining year on year, apart from 2015 when there was a slight increase. The number of women travelling from Ireland to services in the Netherlands was 31 in 2010, 33 in 2011, 24 in 2012, 12 in 2013, 16 in 2014, 34 in 2015.”

Helen Deely, Head of the HSE Sexual Health & Crisis Pregnancy Programme added: “It appears that the rate of women travelling abroad for an abortion declined relatively rapidly between 2001 and 2007  and in recent years the decline has been more gradual.

“Recent research shows that increasing numbers of women from the island of Ireland are making contact with online abortion pill providers”.

“Figures published by one provider would suggest a 62% increase in the number of women from Ireland contacting that online service over a five year period, from 548 in 2010 to 1438 in 2015.[4] The authors report that the number of women who consult with the service is not indicative of the actual number of women who were sent the abortion pill and  subsequently took it.

“This is because women change their minds, experience a spontaneous miscarriage, decide to travel abroad to obtain an abortion or decide to continue with their pregnancy.

“Research reports that while the vast majority of women did not need to contact medical services following taking the abortion pill at home, approximately one in ten (9.3pc) reported to the online provider that they were experiencing a symptom for which they were advised to seek medical advice and 95pc sought medical advice as advised.”

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