Fewer Irish women going to Britain for abortions

There has been a small decrease in the number of women who travelled from Ireland to Britain for an abortion over the past two years, official figures show.

Last year, 3,679 women travelled from Ireland to Britain for a legal abortion, compared to 3,982 in 2012, a decrease of almost 8%.

Figures published yesterday by the British Department of Health show that the number of women from Ireland represent just over 67% of all women from European Countries.

There were 802 women from Northern Ireland who travelled to Britain for an abortion and they made up almost 15% of all women who had terminations.

Women from Italy, who had 128 legal abortions performed in Britain last year, made up the second highest group from other European countries, at just over 2%.

However, there has always been concern that the number of women travelling from Ireland to Britain for an abortion might be an underestimation.

Not all women provide Irish addresses and some women travel to other European states to access abortion services.

The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) point out that since 1980 around 160,000 women have had to travel to Britain for an abortion.

The IFPA provides pregnancy counselling and post-abortion services to more than 1,500 women every year.

IFPA chief executive, Niall Behan, said the women who travelled to Britain for an abortion were not criminals but the law treated them as if they were because they were seeking a service that was illegal in almost every circumstance in Ireland. “The criminalisation of abortion does not deter women from seeking an abortion but it does act as a barrier to receiving care,” he said.

Socialist Party TD Ruth Coppinger said the figures published in the wake of the mother and baby home scandal, showed how irish women continued to be treated as second-class citizens.

“Rather than lock women away in institutions, the Irish State is now exporting women rather than providing them with the right to choose what they do with their own bodies,” she said.

The Pro Life Campaign said the number of women travelling from Ireland to Britain for an abortion had decreased for the 12th consecutive year.

It pointed out that 2013 was the 12th consecutive year that Irish abortions had declined and represented a decline of almost 45% since the high of 6,672 Irish abortions in 2001.

Deputy chairwoman of the Pro Life Campaign, Cora Sherlock, said the significant drop in numbers travelling to Britain for an abortion was a positive development.

The Life Institute also welcomed the decrease, however, their spokeswoman, Niamh Uí Bhriain, said the new figures also showed that repeat abortions were increasing with 37% — almost one in four of all abortions, being repeat abortions, a trend she described as extremely worrying.

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