Fact check: Have more than 170,000 Irish women travelled abroad for an abortion?

Solidarty party claims 170,000 have travelled for abortion since 1980

Question

Have more than 170,000 women travelled abroad from Ireland for abortions ?

Who is making the claim?

The statistic is used by the Solidarity party on its posters, on which they say more than 170,000 women have been forced to travel abroad from Ireland for terminations. While the party uses the term “forced” we obviously cannot fact check that particular element. However, we can test how many women have travelled for abortions to the UK and elsewhere based on official figures made available to us.

What are they basing their claims on?

Ruth Coppinger TD says the figures are based on the statistics released by the Department of Health in the UK on the number of women who gave Irish addresses when seeking a termination. Ms Coppinger said they are using statistics from 1980 onwards.

The figure also includes women who have travelled to the Netherlands, she added. Ms Coppinger said the figure used by Solidarity is quite conservative as many women do not give their proper address to clinics they attend in the UK or elsewhere for abortions.

The statistics:

The Department of Health for England and Wales has been compiling figures on the number of women with Irish addresses seeking terminations since 1970. Authorities in Scotland do not give a country breakdown, rather they use the term non-resident.

In 1970, 261 women said they had travelled to England or Wales from Ireland for an abortion. In 2016 the figure was 3,265. The figures vary in the years in between.

However, using the statistics made available to us from the UK Department of Health, we know that a total of 168,705 women travelled from 1980 to 2016 - the time frame referenced by Solidarity. You can access some of the figures here.

Meanwhile, the Health Service Executive's Crisis Pregnancy Programme collects figures on the number of women who gave Irish addresses at Dutch abortion clinics between 2006 and 2015. The figures show 1,547 women have travelled to the Netherlands to access terminations during that period.

The breakdown of women who gave Irish addresses at Dutch abortion clinics since 2006 is as follows:

  • 2006 - 461
  • 2007 - 451
  • 2008 - 351
  • 2009 - 134
  • 2010 - 31
  • 2011 - 33
  • 2012 - 24
  • 2013 - 12
  • 2014 - 16
  • 2015 - 34

The figures are available here.

In total, adding together the figures from the UK and those in relation to the Netherlands, it shows 170,252 women travelled abroad to access terminations and gave Irish addresses.

Answer:

This claim by Solidarity is true.