Hundreds of women travelled to Britain for abortions from Ireland in 2021 

Hundreds of women travelled to Britain for abortions from Ireland in 2021 

Amy Dunne, the woman at the centre of the controversial Miss D case in 2007 at a protest outside the Dáil organised by the National Women's Council of Ireland in May to mark the fourth anniversary of Repeal the 8th, calling on Government to address the lack of countrywide abortion services. Picture: Moya Nolan

More than 200 women from the Republic and 161 women from the North travelled to England and Wales to access abortion care in 2021, a report from the British Department of Health and Social Care has revealed. 

The majority of women who travelled from the Republic of Ireland to have abortions were more than 12 weeks' pregnant, making them ineligible for termination services at home. Half were also foetal anomaly cases. 

The chief executive for the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) 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," he added. 

Mr Behan also said the IFPA had witnessed first hand from their clients that "exclusion from access to termination services in Ireland is traumatising". 

"We know also that denial of care because of the gestation limit disproportionately burdens the most vulnerable, marginalised and disadvantaged. Exclusions from essential healthcare cause harm. No one should have to leave Ireland for abortion care," he added. 

The statistics published on Tuesday showed that 214,256 abortions were carried out in England and Wales for resident women, and 613 abortions to women recorded as being resident outside of the two countries, a decrease on the previous year. 

Some 33.6% of those women were from the Republic, and 26.3% were from Northern Ireland. 

The report said a large fall in women travelling to Britain to access abortion services may be explained by the impact of Covid-19 travel restrictions. 

The legal limit for abortions to be carried out in Britain is 24 weeks, compared to 12 weeks in the Republic, except for in cases of severe foetal abnormality or where the mother's life is at risk. 

Abortions has been decriminalised in Northern Ireland since 2019 but the Department of Health has not commissioned the establishment of abortion services yet. 

The report said that on May 18 this year, abortion regulations 2022 were laid out, removing any barriers preventing the establishment of abortion services in Northern Ireland. 

“If the Northern Ireland Department of Health does not commission and fund abortion services, the regulations give the UK government the power to do anything that a Northern Ireland minister or department could do for the purpose of ensuring that services are provided," the report said. 

In the Republic, there is currently an ongoing review of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018

Mr Behan from the IFPA said: “Today’s figures challenge policy makers with the harsh reality of exclusionary and restrictive provisions in the law. We need a legal and operational framework that meets the needs of every pregnant person. This is one of the critical issues that the review of the 2018 act must address.”

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