Almost 4,000 Irish women went to UK for abortions in 2012

New figures show 124 were under 18 years-of-age

Almost 4,000 women from the Republic travelled to England or Wales for an abortion last year, new statistics published by the UK Department of Health today show.

The figures show 124 girls under the age of 18 provided an address in the Republic.

Of the 3,982 women who travelled in 2012, 3,093 specified which Irish county they came from. Of those, 40 per cent said they were from Dublin and 10 per cent from Cork.

The majority of the Irish women (2,700) were between three and nine weeks pregnant, while 101 were more than 20 weeks pregnant. Almost 500 were 13 to 19 weeks pregnant and close to 700 were 10 to 12 weeks pregnant.


A total of 755 women said they had had one or more abortions in the past.

Among those from the Republic, the largest age group represented was 20-24-years of age (1,082 women), with 964 in the 25-29 age bracket.

One in five was aged 30-34. Almost 550 women were aged 35-39 and 263 were 40 and over.

Among the teenagers who travelled, 32 were under 16 while 92 were aged 16 or 17 and 223 were 18 or 19.

Women from the Republic made up close to 70 per cent of all non-residents who went to England or Wales.

The figures represent a reduction on the previous year’s statistics. In 2011, a total of 4,149 women travelled while the number of under-18s was 148.

However, not all women resident in the Republic provide their Irish addresses for reasons of confidentiality.

Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) chief executive Niall Behan said the figures “mask the hardship experienced by women who are denied access to abortion services in Ireland”.

Mr Behan said it was unacceptable that women in Ireland had to rely on UK health services to provide access to safe and legal abortion. “The ban on lawful abortion services in Ireland does not deter women from having abortions; it places the burden of accessing this necessary health service on women,” he said.

“In the last ten years the IFPA has received over 40,000 calls to our national helpline and provided non-directive counselling to more than 12,000 women. Every day we hear from women who have to leave this country to access health services that should be available in Ireland.”

Mr Behan said Irish women’s reasons for choosing abortion included 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.

“No one can be under any illusion that enacting the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill fulfils the state’s responsibility to women,” he added.

Meanwhile, more than 900 from Northern Ireland travelled.

The figures were published by the UK Department of Health this morning. The statistics are obtained from the abortion notification forms returned to the chief medical officers of England and Wales.

The number of abortions provided to non-residents has fallen every year since 2002. The 2012 total is the lowest in any year since 1969.

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan is Features Editor of The Irish Times