Increase in number of Irish travelling to UK for abortions

Figures show 3,735 women with Irish addresses travelled to UK for abortions in 2014

A total of 3,735 Irish residents travelled to to England or Wales last year for abortions, statistics published by the UK Department of Health show.

The 2014 total represents an increase on the 2013 figure of 3,679, the first year-on-year rise in the number of abortions among Irish residents since 2001.

Five Irish residents who travelled to the UK last year had abortions on the grounds of a risk to the life of the pregnant women, after the commencement of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act in Ireland on January 1st 2014.

Just under half (47 per cent) of the 3,735 Irish residents were in a relationship but not married, while 30 per cent were single. Almost a fifth – or 18 per cent – were married or in a civil partnership.


A fifth of Irish residents who travelled to England or the UK had had a previous abortion under UK legislation.

Almost nine in 10 Irish residents who travelled to the UK for an abortion last year were between the ages of 18 and 39 while 21 were under the age of 16 and 84 were aged between 16 and 17. A total of 294 women were aged 40 or over.

More than two thirds of the abortions to Irish residents took place at between three and nine weeks gestation. A further 16 per cent of abortions were at between 10 and 12 weeks gestation; 12 per cent at between 13 and 19 weeks and 3 per cent at 20 weeks or over.

A total of 140 abortions were carried out because of congenital conditions.

Of those 54 were connected to conditions of the nervous system. There were 12 cases where anencephalous was the principal ground for abortion while a further eight cases related to conditions of the musculoskeletal system and five cases to spina bifida.

Chromosomal conditions were cited in 77 cases including Down’s syndrome (45), Edward’s syndrome (21) and Patau’s syndrome (7).

No abortions to Irish women last year were carried out on the grounds of a cleft lip or cleft palate.

The HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme acknowledged the increase last year in the number of Irish residents travelling to the UK for abortions but noted the abortion rate had remained stable at 3.8 per 1,000 women between 2013 and 2014.

The chief executive of the Irish Family Planning Association, Niall Behan said the figures highlighted the State's "continued failure to uphold women's right to health".

“The State cannot continue to abdicate its human rights responsibilities. It must now vindicate women’s right to health by reforming its abortion laws through Constitutional means,” he said.

However, Dublin solicitor and deputy chairwoman of the Pro Life Campaign, Cora Sherlock said the statistics did not reflect " abortion regret".

“We deserve an open, honest debate in Ireland. That means addressing all of the human stories behind these figures - listening to the testimonies of women who travelled for abortions and now deeply regret the loss of their child”.