Northern Ireland news

Increase in women travelling from Northern Ireland for abortion

Solicitor Jemma Conlon (left centre) and Amnesty International Northern Ireland campaign manager, Grainne Teggart (right centre), with pro-choice campaigners

MORE than 1,000 women and girls travelled from Northern Ireland to England or Wales for an abortion last year.

The latest statistics released today show an increase of almost 200 women travelling for a termination than in 2017.

Of all the abortions carried out in England and Wales in 2018, 4,687 were for non-residents. The figures, which cover the period before changes to the legislation in the Republic, show that 61 per cent of non-residents were from the south of Ireland with 22 per cent travelling from Northern Ireland.

Amnesty International's campaign manager, Grainne Teggart said: "It's unsurprising that the number of women who travelled from Northern Ireland to England or Wales for an abortion has increased.

"The ongoing near-total ban on abortion doesn't stop women needing or seeking abortions, it just forces them to board planes to access the healthcare.

"Women should be treated with respect and dignity and given the right to make choices about their own body at home.

"It's degrading and insulting that the UK Government allows women in Northern Ireland to travel to receive vital healthcare services, but will not give us this same access at home.

"These statistics don't capture the many women unable to travel for an abortion - including those in abusive relationship and those without confirmed immigration status - nor do they reflect those forced to access abortion pills online and risking prosecution in doing so.

"It’s time the UK Government changed the law and stood by women in Northern Ireland", she added.

Nola Leach, chief executive in Northern Ireland of Christian charity Care (Christian Action Research and Education), said it was disappointing to see the number of women who travelled to England and Wales for an abortion has increased.

“The wider context is really important and NI’s abortion rate is still significantly lower than England and Wales.

“But we need to see a restored Executive here in Northern Ireland so elected representatives who actually represent the people of NI can introduce concrete measures to better support women during pregnancy.

“As polling shows, the majority of women in NI believe abortion law is the responsibility of NI’s own elected representatives.

“Today’s figures are a powerful reminder too, that NI should not want to go down the same road as Great Britain.

“100,000 people are alive across NI because we never adopted the 1967 Abortion Act and this is a legacy worth protecting.”

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