| 17.2°C Dublin

Majority of the 6,666 abortions carried out last year up to 12 weeks

Close

IFPA’s Niall Behan called for reform to sex education

IFPA’s Niall Behan called for reform to sex education

IFPA’s Niall Behan called for reform to sex education

The majority of the 6,666 pregnancies terminated in Ireland last year involved women availing of medical abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

It was the first full year of the legislation widening the grounds for abortion following the 2018 referendum.

The new legislation allows for abortion on demand up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Medical abortions up to 12 weeks accounted for 6,542 of the abortions here last year.

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

There were 100 abortions in cases of fatal foetal abnormality last year.

Another 21 were performed where there was a risk to the life or health of the mother. A further three were carried out on these grounds as emergencies.

The first annual report on the operation of the legislation, the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act showed 6,666 pregnancies were terminated.

This compared to 2,879 involving women who travelled to UK clinics for abortions in 2018.

It is unclear if the liberalising of the legislation here led to a real increase in abortions or whether the UK figures were an under-representation.

The 2018 UK figures would not have included women buying abortion pills online or travelling to other countries.

Based on women's home addresses, abortions were carried out in all counties - with most being performed in Dublin where 2,493 terminations took place.

In Cork, there were 606 abortions performed, while 67 women gave addresses in Northern Ireland.

Landmark

Commenting on the figures, Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) chief executive Niall Behan said it was a "landmark" and that data was available for the first time on the level of need for abortion.

"Reforms to sexuality education and contraception access are urgently needed," he said.

"And we know from UK statistics, published earlier this month, that not all women and girls who need abortion care are able to access it in Ireland."

The UK clinic figures for 2019 showed that 375 women travelled for abortions last year despite the availability here.

Mr Behan said the new Government must prioritise reform to contraception access and sexuality education and ensure that the 2021 review of the abortion law focuses on enhancing access to abortion care so that no one is left behind.

Abortion Rights Campaign co-convener Cathie Shiels said: "For people who can meet the strict, medically unnecessary 12-week time-limit, there is clearly a greater opportunity to access healthcare at home, and this is something we can be very proud of.

"However, local abortion access is not a reality for all.

"Only 24 individuals obtained abortions because of a medical emergency or risk to their life or health - roughly the same number as under the extremely restrictive Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act.

"We know that the system still leaves too many behind.

"Especially in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is clear that exporting healthcare to the UK is unacceptable," Ms Shiels added.