‘A denial of healthcare’ – More than 700 Irish residents have travelled for abortion care since 2019
Published: Tuesday, June 21, 2022
New statistics released today (21st June 2022) by the UK government show 775 Irish residents have been forced to travel for abortion care since the abortion legislation was introduced in Ireland.
In total, 206 Irish residents were forced to travel in 2021 an increase from 194 residents in 2020. Significantly, there has been a year-on-year increase in the proportion of women and pregnant people forced to travel for a termination for medical reasons which now accounts for half of all Irish travel to the UK - rising from 32% in 2020 to 50% in 2021.
In response to the concerning travel statistics, the Abortion Working Group, led by the National Women’s Council (NWC) has called on Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, to commit to evidence-led legislative reform to ensure no woman or pregnant person is forced abroad for healthcare they should receive at home. This is in keeping with the public mandate with nationally representative public opinion data showing strengthened support for abortion access in Ireland: 80% of the public now say no woman in Ireland should still have to travel abroad to access abortion care compared to 72% in May 2021.
Speaking upon release of the data, Alana Ryan, NWC Women’s Health Co-Ordinator said “We know that abortion restrictions do not prevent abortion and instead create a two-tier system where only those who can afford to travel for healthcare can access terminations. While Repeal has enabled abortion care for many, too many women and pregnant people continue to find themselves unable to access this essential healthcare due to ongoing legal barriers. Our narrow definition of fatal foetal anomalies is forcing women to travel for terminations for medical reasons. The 12-week gestational limit is contrary to best international practice and inhibits women’s access to care. The Government has a unique opportunity with this essential review to improve abortion access and bring Ireland into line with WHO guidelines. We call on all our political leaders to signal your commitment to evidence-led legislative reform.”
Read the full text of the Abortion Working Group Letter here: https://www.nwci.ie/images/uploads/AWG_UK_stats_and_abortion_review_FINAL_.pdf
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Notes to Editor
In May 2018 the ban on abortion in the Irish Republic was overturned, repealing the eighth amendment of the constitution. The law came into effect on 20 December 2018 meaning that abortion is permitted in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and in later cases where the woman’s life or health is at risk, or in cases of fatal fetal abnormality.
As a result of this change and travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2021, the number of women travelling to England and Wales for abortions declined from 2,879 in 2018 to 206 in 2021 (Table 12a), a decrease of 93%.
The proportion of abortions for residents of the Irish Republic performed under ground C was 50%, a decrease of 18 percentage points from 68% in 2020. The proportion of abortions performed under ground E increased from 32% in 2020 to 50% in 2021 (Table 12e). In 2021, 3.4% of abortions were performed at less than 10 weeks gestation, decreasing from 6.2% in 2020.
About Abortion Working Group
Established in 2019, the Abortion Working Group is chaired by NWCI and is a collective of civil society organisations and healthcare providers. The purpose of the group is to provide a space for information sharing and collective advocacy for groups working to ensure safe access to abortion in Ireland. The group advocate for the provision of safe and effective access to a high-quality and comprehensive abortion care service.
The Group’s recommendations include:
- Full decriminalisation of abortion in line with WHO guidance to remove the chilling effect on healthcare providers
- Remove the mandatory three days wait period to ensure timely access to abortion care
- Remove the 12-weeks gestational limit and enable abortion on request up to viability to ensure that no woman or pregnant person is forced to travel abroad for essential reproductive healthcare
Read the Abortion Working Group’s full submission to the Review here: https://www.nwci.ie/images/uploads/Abortion_Working_Group_joint-submission__final_March_2022.pdf
The National Women’s Council (NWC) is the leading national representative organisation for women and women’s groups in Ireland, founded in 1973. We have over 190 member groups and a large and growing community of individual supporters. The ambition of the National Women’s Council is an Ireland where every woman enjoys true equality and no woman is left behind. This ambition shapes and informs our work, and, with our living values, how we work.
We are a movement-building organisation rooted in our membership, working on the whole island of Ireland. We are also part of the international movement to protect and advance women’s and girls’ rights. Our purpose is to lead action for the achievement of women’s and girls’ equality through mobilising, influencing, and building solidarity. More information is available on www.nwci.ie
 Combined total travel from Ireland to England and Wales during 2019, 2020 and 2021.
 Opinions Market Research Omnibus May 2021, net agree 72%, base: n=944 compared to Omnibus Feb 2022, net agree 80%, base: n=863