Rise in number of Northern Ireland women seeking abortions in England and Wales

Sarah Ewart at the Supreme Court in London for yesterday's ruling on Northern Ireland's abortion laws
Brendan Hughes

THE number of Northern Ireland women travelling to England and Wales for an abortion has increased in the months since the British government agreed to cover costs.

The figure surged by 46 per cent and 62 per cent in the third and fourth quarters of 2017 compared to the same periods in the previous year.

A total of 919 women from the north travelled last year – an increase of more than a quarter on 2016, and the highest level since 2011.

In June last year, the British government announced it would give women from Northern Ireland free access to NHS abortion services in England.

Women on low incomes can also seek British government support to pay for travel costs.


The number of Northern Ireland women having an abortion in England and Wales has generally declined since a peak of 1,855 in 1990.

Last year there were 4,809 abortions carried out in England and Wales for non-residents, a similar level to 2016.

The majority were women travelling from the Republic at 64 per cent, followed by Northern Ireland at 19 per cent.

Nine out of 10 abortions in England and Wales were carried out under 13 weeks. The highest abortion rate is among women aged 20-24.

The law on abortion in Northern Ireland is much stricter than in Britain.

In the north, abortion is only permitted if the mother's life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health.

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