Are 11 Irish women coming to England or Wales every day to get an abortion?

Published: 12th Jul 2013

Every day 11 women come to England or Wales from Ireland to get an abortion.

This according to an interview on the Today Programme this morning with Irish Dáil member Joan Collins, who opposed a new law allowing limited rights to abortion for women in life-threatening pregnancies or who are suicidal.

The right to travel will be enshrined in law in the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013.

These figures are confirmed by the Department of Health's (DH) latest statistical relase on abortions, published yesterday.

According to the DH, last year a total of 3,982 women came from the Irish Republic to terminate their pregnancies.

Who are they?

The great majority of them were aged 20 to 34, while 124 (3%) of them were minors.

(Percentages in the original data add up to 101 due to rounding).

Of those that arrived in England or Wales, 19% had a record of a previous abortion; in 3,227 cases it was their first.

According to the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA), Irish women's reasons for choosing abortion include:

"financial worries, concern about the well-being of other children, diagnosis of serious foetal abnormality, pre-existing health problems, including mental health problems, and relationship issues."

How do they compare to women from other countries?

In 2012, there were 5,850 abortions to women from outside England and Wales, compared with 6,151 in 2011.

Bearing in mind that Ireland and Northern Ireland are by far the closest to England to restrict abortions, women from the Irish Republic made up close to 70 per cent of all non-residents who reached England's shores to terminate their pregnancy; another 15% were from Northern Ireland (15%).

If we don't count Ireland, the United Arab Emirates and Italy are the two foreign countries with the highest number of visitors seeking to terminate their pregnancies.

A declining trend

The figures represent a drop on the previous year when a total of 4,149 women travelled to England or Wales. In fact the number of abortions to non-residents has fallen each year since 2002, when the figure was 9,453; the 2012 total is the lowest in any year since 1969.

The statistics are obtained from the abortion notification forms returned to the chief medical officers of England and Wales. They may not be entirely accurate as some patients refuse to give their addresses while attending clinics or hospitals.

UPDATE 13 July: This article originally said that 65 (3%) of residents of the Irish Republic who had abortions in England or Wales were minors. The correct figure now given is 124 (3%). Sorry for the slip. We have also added a note for clarity that the percentages in the top graph add up to 101% due to rounding and referred to England and/or Wales consistently throughout.

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