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Huge drop in number who travelled to UK for abortion

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A total of 375 women made trip in 2019 (picture posed)

A total of 375 women made trip in 2019 (picture posed)

A total of 375 women made trip in 2019 (picture posed)

A significant proportion of the 375 women from the Republic who terminated pregnancies in the UK last year would have been eligible for an abortion here.

New figures show a big fall in terminations among women from the Republic in 2019, down from 2,879 in 2018.

Around 65 women, 17pc, who travelled were less than 10 weeks pregnant.

The figures show at least one woman a day travels from here to the UK for an abortion.

It follows the introduction of legislation here in January last year allowing for medical abortion on demand up to 12 weeks into pregnancy.

Termination is permitted in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and also where there is a risk to the life or health of the woman.

There was an increase in the proportion of women from the Republic who were over 24 weeks pregnant and had a termination in the UK on Ground E, up from 3pc to 17pc. This allows for termination in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

Ground E states the termination can take place where there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.

It is unclear if the diagnosis received by all of the women who had terminations under Ground E was compatible with the law here around fatal foetal abnormality or whether it involved other disabilities.

Figures for the number of abortions carried out under the new law here have yet to be released.

Unacceptable

The Abortion Rights Campaign said that when figures for women from the Republic and the North were combined, it showed 1,389 from the island had terminations in the UK.

It is still "an unacceptable 26 women a week, but the numbers don't tell the whole story".

"The statistics are no substitute for over a thousand different tales of travel," it said.

Spokeswoman Cathie Shiels added: "We have heard heartbreaking stories from those who believed they were entitled to a legal abortion in Ireland being forced to travel.

"Our new law puts doctors in the position of making impossible distinctions between 'fatal' and all other severe, complex or life-threatening foetal anomalies.

"With the threat of prosecution still hanging over them, many doctors are hesitant to make that distinction."

The Irish Family Planning Association said the figures showed that not all women and girls who need abortion care were able to access it in Ireland.