Women in North turn to abortion pills as number going to England drops

Number travelling for procedure has declined 24% in last five years, figures show

Two years ago, a woman in Northern Ireland was given a three-month suspended sentence for buying abortion pills. Photograph: iStock

Two years ago, a woman in Northern Ireland was given a three-month suspended sentence for buying abortion pills. Photograph: iStock

 

Fewer women from Northern Ireland are travelling to England for an abortion because they are increasingly buying abortion pills online, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (Bpas) has said recently.

The number of women who travel to England has declined by 24 per cent in the last five years, with 833 doing so in 2015.

A total of 724 women living in the North had an abortion in England or Wales in 2016, along with another 3,265 who gave addresses in the Republic of Ireland – these women accounted for 83 per cent of all abortions carried out in England and Wales on women who did not live in England or Wales. The information about abortions in Scotland is more vague.

Life imprisonment

Women on Web, a website that refers women to licensed doctors to obtain the abortion pill after an online consultation, reported that 1,438 women from the North and the Republic used the service in 2015 – up from 548 in 2010.

A woman living in the North can face up to life imprisonment for terminating a pregnancy. Two years ago, a woman was given a three-month suspended sentence for buying the pills. One woman faced trial for buying pills for her daughter.

The number of legal abortions carried out in the North has fallen to a record low. Two years ago, 16 were carried out compared with 43 in 2010/11. It could be down to fewer doctors feeling they are able to sanction terminations, even if they would be legally permitted to do so, argues Bpas.