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UK statistics on abortion highlight urgent need to improve abortion access in Ireland

Published: Thursday, June 10, 2021

In response to today’s statistics from the UK showing that almost 200 women and pregnant people from Ireland travelled to England and Wales for abortion care in 2020, the National Women’s Council (NWC) called on the Government to use the Review of the abortion legislation as an opportunity to tackle legal barriers and improve abortion access for women and pregnant people in Ireland.

Alana Ryan, Women’s Health Coordinator with NWC said,

“We are very concerned to see that almost 200 women and pregnant people had no other option but to travel to the UK amidst a global pandemic to secure vital healthcare. This is at a time when the Government message was that - for our safety and security - we should only travel within a few kilometres of our homes.

We are particularly alarmed that the proportion of Irish residents travelling in the heart-breaking circumstances of severe or fatal foetal anomalies has actually increased, accounting for a third of all those who had to travel in 2020.”

She continued,

“The figures also show that 90% of abortions happened after the 12-week period, highlighting that the rigid cut off point in the current Irish legislation is not working for women.

The UK numbers are also only part of the full picture as they do not include people travelling to other countries or ordering abortion pills online.

This clearly shows that the law as it stands does not meet the needs of every woman or pregnant person. We urgently need to guarantee compassionate healthcare in Ireland for all women and pregnant people who need it.”

She concluded,

“This year we will have the unique opportunity to use the upcoming Review of the abortion legislation as a chance to make urgent legislative changes and improve access to abortion care in Ireland.

This must include nationwide coverage of abortion services in primary care settings and all maternity hospitals. We also must ensure that conscientious objection can never prevent women and pregnant people from accessing urgent healthcare.

In addition, NWC is calling for important legislative changes, including an extension to the 12-week limit, an end to the 3-day waiting period and to the criminalisation of abortion. Abortion care, like all aspects of health care, should be decided in the context of a trusting and supportive doctor-patient relationship, whereby medical needs are met in line with clinical best practice and patient preferences.”


For more information, please contact Silke Paasche, Head of Communications, NWC, Tel. 085 858 9104 or Alana Ryan, Women’s Health Coordinator, NWC, Tel. 087 266 7214.


Note to Editors:

The Abortion Statistics for England and Wales: 2020 have been published today 10 June and are available here
In 2020, there were 943 abortions to women recorded as residing outside England and Wales, a decrease from 2,135 in 2019. Most non-residents came from Northern Ireland (39.3%) and the Irish Republic (20.6%). The large decrease in the number of abortions for residents outside of England and Wales may be explained by travel restrictions in place throughout the year relating to the Coronavirus pandemic
In 2020, the number of residents of Irish Republic travelling to England and Wales for abortions declined from 2,879 in 2018 to 194 in 2020 a decrease of 93%.
The proportion of abortions under ground E increased from 17% in 2019 to 32% in 2020 – ground E is where ‘there is substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped’.
In 2020, 69% of abortions provided to Irish residents occurred between 13-19 weeks, while 22% occurred after 20 weeks.