More women accessing abortion pills online as fewer head to UK, figures suggest

More women accessing abortion pills online as fewer head to UK, figures suggest

Health chiefs have suggested that the number of women travelling to Britain for a termination is decreasing as more women access abortion pills online.

Some 3,265 women gave Irish addresses at clinics and hospitals in England and Wales last year - a drop of almost 200 on the previous year and down from 6,673 in 2001.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) said one internet supplier reported 1,438 contacts from women in 2015.

The agency also said one in 10 women who took abortion pills reported to the provider that they were experiencing a symptom that required medical advice or treatment.

Helen Deely, head of the Health Service Executive's sexual health and crisis pregnancy programme, said there was a rapid fall in the numbers of women travelling from 2001 to 2007 and a more gradual fall in the last nine years.

"Recent research shows that increasing numbers of women from the island of Ireland are making contact with online abortion pill providers," she said.

Ms Deely urged women who have had an abortion, either by taking pills or travelling, to seek out after-care in Ireland.

"If a woman takes an abortion pill and has prolonged heavy bleeding, bad pain, fainting, or other complications, we strongly encourage that she attends an emergency department or GP straight away," she said.

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

Welcoming the reduction in the number of abortions, Cora Sherlock of the Pro Life Campaign said: "“I find it puzzling that some pro-choice advocates instead of welcoming the decline are using it as another opportunity to push for access to wide-ranging abortion in Ireland.

"The line they are adopting makes no sense. Surely, everyone should be welcoming the fall in the numbers and working to reduce them still further. "

"Repeal of the 8th Amendment and creating wider access to abortion would have the opposite effect and see the numbers of abortions rise again,” he added.

Meanwhile, Labour member of the Oireachtas Committee on Citizens’ Assembly, Jan O’Sullivan TD, has called on the incoming Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to commit to holding a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

“The stance of the Labour Party is clear; the Eighth Amendment must be repealed and as the only party that campaigned against its inclusion in 1983 we won’t stop until it’s gone and the women of this nation are treated with the decency and respect they deserve,” said Ms O'Sullivan.

The figures reported to the UK's chief medical officers showed 724 women with addresses in Northern Ireland travelled to clinics or hospitals in England and Wales for an abortion in 2016.

Of those from the Republic, 10 girls were under 16 and another 56 were aged between 16 and 17.

The vast majority of the terminations, 2,256, occurred between three and nine weeks of the pregnancy while another 106 terminations were carried out after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The UK health chiefs also detailed the recorded reasons for terminations.

There were 141 cases carried out on the grounds that the baby would suffer physical or mental abnormalities that would leave it seriously handicapped.

Forty-three cases related to a diagnosis of Down's syndrome.

Another 20 cases related to Edwards' syndrome. According to Britain's NHS, around one in every 12 babies born with the genetic disorder survive beyond one year and they will live with severe physical and mental disabilities and it is very rare for children to survive to early adulthood.

About 80% of the women from Ireland had not had an abortion before, the report stated.

Almost half of the women, 1,597, were married or in a civil partnership.

It was noted that all of the women had to cover the cost of the travel and procedure themselves or through family and friends or other charitable support.

The report found one woman suffered complications which could have ranged from bleeding to uterine perforation and/or sepsis and would only have been reported up to the time they were discharged from the clinic or hospital.

Thirty-four women travelled from Ireland for an abortion in the Netherlands in 2015.

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