Married women more likely to have abortions, assembly hears

Forum told Irish women more likely to have a surgical abortion in the UK than medical

Married women are more likely to have an abortion than unmarried women, while there are more abortions carried out in countries where laws are highly restrictive, the 99 members of the Citizens’ Assembly has heard.

The Citizens’ Assembly continued its deliberations on the eighth amendment to the Constitution in Dublin this weekend.

Surgical abortion

Dr Patricia Lohr, the medical director of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), one of the leading providers of abortions for Irish women in Britain, said Irish women were more likely to have a surgical abortion in the UK than a medical abortion as a surgical abortion can be carried out in a day.


By contrast a medical abortion, involving the taking of abortion pills, can necessitate an overnight stay.

Dr Lohr said Irish women on average have abortions a week later than British women which reflects the contingencies they have to travel for an abortion.

While abortion is free on the NHS for British women, abortions cost Irish women between €450 and €1,550 depending on what stage the abortion is carried out at and that does not include travel or accommodation costs.

She said a synthesis of the available evidence suggests that abortion does not have adverse mental health issues for women who have them and there is no need for compulsory abortion counselling for women.

No abortion on demand

Dr Peter Thompson, a consultant in maternal foetal medicine in Birmingham said, contrary to what many people believe, there is not abortion on demand in the UK. An abortion can only be given on certain medical grounds.

He said 135 Irish women had abortions in Britain under ground E which involve a substantial risk the baby would be born with a severe handicap or a foetal fetal abnormality.

One pregnancy in four

The 99 members of the assembly were told there are an average of 56 million abortions every year, amounting to one pregnancy in four .

They were told that abortion rates are in marked decline in the developed world, but remaining steady in the developing world.

Abortions in the developing world account for 88 per cent of all terminations internationally, Gilda Segh of the Guttmacher Institute in New York told the ' Assembly.

The abortion rate among women in the developing world is 37 per cent per 1,000. In the developed world it is 27 per 1,000. The rate was 47 per 1,000 20 years ago, she said.

Abortion rates in countries where the laws are highly restricted are higher at 37 per 1,000 than in countries where there are less restrictions (34 per 1,000), she said.

Married women

Married women are more likely to have an abortion (36 per 1,000) than unmarried women (25 per 1,000) except in western Africa and North America.

Sixty per cent of the world’s population live in countries where abortion is broadly legal including China which accounts for at least 10 million abortions every year , she said.

Ireland is one of only four regions in Europe where abortion is not broadly legal. The others are Northern Ireland, Malta and Poland.

A fifth of the world’s population live in countries like Ireland where abortion is restricted to circumstances where the life of the mother is in danger.

The lowest abortion rates in the world can be found in western and northern Europe where most countries have liberal abortion laws.

She stated that Ireland has a rate of abortion of 4.5 per 1,000 in comparison with an average of between 8 and 18 per 1,000 elsewhere in Europe. The lowest rates are in the Netherlands, Belgium, Scotland and Sweden.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times