Concern voiced over UK hospital restrictions

Numbers of Irish travelling for abortion for medical reasons ‘has risen steadily’

The main hospital in Britain performing abortions in cases of fatal foetal anomaly is placing restrictions on the number of women it will see from Ireland, the Irish support group Terminations for Medical Reasons has said.

According to the group, Liverpool Women’s Hospital “is telling Irish women it either can’t look after them at all or that they will have to wait two or three weeks before they can get an appointment”.

The Irish Family Planning Association also says women seeking a termination following a diagnosis of a fatal anomaly are being turned away from the Liverpool hospital, which specialises in foetomaternal medicine.

Grieving process
Although other UK hospitals provide terminations in cases of fatal foetal anomaly, as do some abortion clinics, Irish maternity hospitals have established informal links with the Liverpool hospital, enabling them to, for example, send medical files with the women.


Unlike most abortion clinics, it also allows partners to attend and stay; provides specialist counselling; and also facilitates the grieving process with such services as photographs and hand and footprints of the babies.

Amanda Mellet, cofounder of Terminations for Medical Reasons, said the number of women with fatal foetal diagnoses choosing to terminate is increasing, putting pressure on the Liverpool hospital.

“Where we were being contacted by a few women or couples a month, we are now getting about three contacts a week. It does seem Liverpool is telling Irish women it either can’t look after them at all or that they will have to wait two or three weeks before they can get an appointment.”

'Horrified and terrified'
One woman who last month received a fatal foetal anomaly diagnosis at 13 weeks' gestation, told The Irish Times she and her husband discussed at length what to do but were "absolutely clear" when they decided not to continue with the pregnancy.

She said “one of the worst things” in the process was being told “Liverpool is not an option because the waiting list was just too long”.

She said she was “horrified and terrified” at the thought of going to an abortion clinic. In the end, as her husband is Austrian, they travelled to Vienna where a termination was performed. Their daughter is now buried in Vienna with her grandparents.

A spokesman for the hospital confirmed “the number of women coming from Ireland has risen steadily over the past few years”.

“The trust is constantly reviewing the demand and capacity of all our maternity services,” he said, “including foetal medicine, to ensure that we have sustainable services for our patients. We can confirm that we are in the process of appointing another consultant subspecialist in foetomaternal medicine.”

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times