Fewer than 3,000 women travel for abortion in UK

Number of Irish who had terminations in Britain last year is lowest in decades

The number of Irish women who went to Britain for abortions last year fell below 3,000 for the first time in decades, according to official British figures.

In all, 3,500 women gave an address in Ireland when they registered at clinics, but 2,884 of them said they were Irish, while nearly 200 gave their nationality as British , 294 as other white ethnic, 64 British-African, 31 Asian, 15 British-Indian, 32 Chinese and some from for other ethnic backgrounds.

There were 1,214 single women, 1,672 who were unmarried but with a partner, 583 who were married or in a civil partnership and 76 who were separated, widowed or divorced.

In all, there were 5,469 abortions carried out in Britain on women normally resident outside England and Wales in 2012 – with about two-thirds of them coming from the Republic and 15 per cent from Northern Ireland.


The Irish numbers are “a modern indictment of the State’s treatment of women with unplanned or unwanted pregnancies”, the Irish Family Planning Association said.

Real numbers higher

The number of abortions carried out on Irish women who gave an Irish address is down by nearly 300 on the 3,962 figure from the UK department of health.

There has been a steep fall from the 2001 high when 6,673 travelled – although the statistics do not shed light on why this is.

However, the London-based Abortion Support Network said the figures underplay the real numbers since many women give the address of people they know in Britain.

The majority of abortions performed on women with Irish addresses happen before the ninth week of pregnancy, according to the figures, with 2,512 taking place between three and nine weeks.

Just over 600 were carried out between 10 and 12 weeks; 445 between 13 and 19 weeks – when prices charged by clinics rise significantly, while 108 took place after 20 weeks.

Congenital conditions

Nearly 120 pregnancies of women with Irish addresses were terminated because of congenital conditions: 16 foetuses were diagnosed with anencephalous; six with encephalocelous; two with hydrocephalus (all concerning the brain); and three had spina bifida, according to a breakdown which was supplied to

The Irish Times

by the Department of Health.

Condemning Ireland’s lack of abortion services, the Irish Family Planning Association said nearly 160,000 women have gone to Britain for abortions since 1980.

“These women are not criminals but the law treats them as such because they are seeking a service that is illegal in almost every circumstance in Ireland,” said the IFPA’s Niall Behan. “Every day our clients tell us about their experiences of being abandoned by the Irish healthcare system and forced to rely on the services of another country,” he said.

“The decrease is significant and, while every abortion is a tragedy, it is important that women continue to realise there are better options than abortion,” said Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute.