Number from NI travelling to GB for abortions more than halves

More than 200 women and girls travelled from the island of Ireland to Great Britain for abortions last year, an increase compared to 2020, the latest figures show.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 22nd June 2022, 8:13 am

The figures show that 206 women and girls, with address in the Republic of Ireland, sought abortion care, with a further 161 women and girls travelling from Northern Ireland.

The data was published by the UK Department of Health and Social Care yesterday.

The number of pregnant women and girls seeking abortion care from Northern Ireland significantly dropped, with 371 travelling in 2020, compared to 161 last year.

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An anti-abortion protest takes place at the Castle Lane / Cornmarket area of Belfast. Picture: Philip Magowan / Press Eye

However, the number of women and girls travelling from the Republic increased by ten compared to 2020, when there were travel restrictions in place.

The vast majority of women from the Republic were over 12 weeks pregnant and ineligible for termination services in Ireland. Some 50% were foetal anomaly cases.

The figures also show that three teenagers under the age of 16 travelled from the Republic to Great Britain for an abortion, while five teens aged 16 to 17 also travelled.

A total of 11 teenagers under the age of 18 travelled from Northern Ireland for an abortion last year.

Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) chief executive Niall Behan said: “Legal abortion has transformed reproductive healthcare in Ireland, but 206 women travelled to the UK for abortion care in 2021.

“This tells us, unequivocally, that the law is not good enough. 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.

“No-one should have to leave Ireland for abortion care.

“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.”

Ireland’s abortion laws, which were legalised following a referendum in 2018, are under review.

A medical abortion is available up to 12 weeks, but abortions thereafter are only allowed if there is a serious threat to the life or health of the mother or where two clinicians agree there is a fatal foetal abnormality.

Abortion legislation in Northern Ireland was liberalised in 2019 following laws passed by Westminster at a time when the powersharing government at Stormont had collapsed.

But while individual health trusts in Northern Ireland offer services on an ad-hoc basis, the Department of Health has yet to centrally commission the services due to a political impasse at Stormont on the issue.

The Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis recently enacted a law that empowered him to directly commission abortion services in the Province.

Mr Lewis recently told a Westminster committee that the abortion services in Northern Ireland “fall far short” of what is required by law.