Friday, June 20, 2008

Ireland Abortion Statistics

The abortion statistics for abortions carried out in England and Wales in 2007 were
released yesterday (19th June 2008) by the National Statistics Office/UK Department of Health.

Abortion figures as they relate to the island of Ireland are as follows:

The figure for women from the Republic of Ireland having an abortion in England and Wales in 2006 was 5,062.

Previous years statistics are available at the link below for women from the Republic of Ireland:

Newspaper Coverage of Irish Abortion Statistics

Hundreds of women travelling to Holland to end pregnancies
By Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent (Independent)
Friday June 20 2008

Hundreds of Irish women are opting to travel to the Netherlands for abortions -- although the numbers going to Britain to end their pregnancies in 2007 fell for the sixth year in a row.

Until now, the only abortion statistics for Irish women were from UK clinics and newly released figures yesterday showed 4,686 had terminations there last year. This compared with 5,042 UK abortions for Irish women in 2006 and indicates a fall for the sixth year in a row.

However, the Crisis Pregnancy Agency revealed 445 women with Irish addresses had abortions in the Netherlands last year.

"Anecdotally, the clinics have reported they have only seen a significant number of Irish women attending for abortions procedures in the Netherlands since 2006," a spokesperson said.

In 2006, there were 461 abortions carried out on Irish women in the Netherlands and 42 in the previous years. It found the numbers going to other countries such as Spain and Belgium were extremely low -- less than 10 women travelled there between 2005 and 2007.

Pregnancy clinics say cost is a factor and while an abortion in the UK can cost over €700, it can be €300 cheaper in the Netherlands.

Allowing for the trend of women going to countries other than the UK, the overall abortion trend among Irish women appears to be falling.


However, last year there was an increase in the number of Irish girls 16 years or younger having abortions in the UK -- 47 compared with 39 in 2006.

The number of women aged 40 or over who had terminations went up from 200 in 2006 to 209. There was a fall in all other age groups.

One in seven of the women who had UK abortions were more than three months pregnant at the time. As many as 2pc were five of more months into pregnancy.

Eight in 10 women had abortions at under 13 weeks gestation.

The reasons women opted for abortion rather than motherhood are not clear.

In the mid-1990s, it became legal here to give women the names and addresses of abortion clinics. Considerable investment has also be made in counselling services.


Katherine Bulbulia, chair of the Crisis Pregnancy Agency -- the state body which funds pregnancy counselling clinics -- said it was important the numbers of women travelling to abortion clinics in countries other than the UK were monitored.

Agency director Caroline Spillane said crisis pregnancy counselling services here have been expanded by 50pc since 2001.

"The agency has seen a marked increase in the number of women who attend crisis pregnancy counselling throughout the country."

She suggested the increased take up and fall in UK abortions suggested the wider availability of services was having an impact.

Commenting on the UK figures, the Pro Life Campaign said it welcomed the Irish downward trend, pointing out the rate in England and Wales was upward.

"Despite the reduction, we must continue to do more to further reduce our abortion rate," a spokesperson

Fewer women travelling abroad for abortions
Friday June 20 2008

THE NUMBER of Irish women seeking abortions overseas has fallen for the sixth successive year, figures released by the Crisis Pregnancy Agency show.

The number of women giving Irish addresses at abortion clinics in Britain has fallen by almost 2,000 since 2001, to 4,686 last year. The number travelling to the Netherlands, however, has increased significantly, though the overall number has declined.

According to the agency, which began gathering data on numbers travelling to Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium since 2005, an insignificant number (fewer than 10 between 2005 and 2007) were travelling to Spain and Belgium.

However, the number of women giving Irish addresses at abortion clinics in the Netherlands increased from 42 in 2005, to 462 in 2006 and to 445 last year.

The decrease - 1,987 - in numbers travelling to Britain, from 6,673 in 2001 to 4,686 last year, means there has been an overall annual decline in women going overseas for abortions of 1,542 since 2001.

The yearly figures for those travelling to Britain are 6,673 in 2001; 6,522 in 2002; 6,320 in 2003; 6,217 in 2004; 5,585 in 2005; 5,042 in 2006.

The numbers per 1,000 women aged 15-44 travelling to Britain fell from 7.5 in 2001 to 7.2 in 2002; 6.9 in 2003; 6.7 in 2004; 5.9 in 2005; 5.2 in 2006 and 4.7 last year.

Enda Saul, spokeswoman for the agency, said there were a number of factors in the decline.

"There is the wider availability of crisis pregnancy counselling which gives women a free, safe,
non-judgmental and confidential space in which to look at all the options open to her. Also we believe more people are using contraception. It's more widely available and there are good behaviours developing."

Relationship and sexuality education in schools had improved and parents were more likely to take a role in educating their young adult children about contraception.

Referring to numbers travelling to jurisdictions other than Britain, agency chairwoman Katherine Bulbulia said it was important that a formal monitoring system be put in place to provide clarity on how many were travelling, particularly to the Netherlands.

Director Caroline Spillane said there had been a "marked increase" in the number of women availing of crisis pregnancy counselling throughout the State.

"When the take-up of the counselling is combined with the reduction in the number of women giving Irish addresses in UK abortion clinics, we can suggest that the increased awareness of crisis pregnancy and the services provided has had an impact," she said.

Ms Saul also suggested changes in attitudes to family and what constitutes a family may have contributed to women's decisions not to seek abortions.

She said there was far less stigma about being an unmarried or single mother than there had been in past decades.

The agency funds 14 crisis pregnancy counselling providers, in more than 50 centres throughout the State.

Details about crisis pregnancy counselling can be obtained by freetexting list to 50444 or visiting

Women going to UK for abortions down to 13 a day
By Evelyn Ring (The Examiner)
Friday June 20 2008

EVERY day last year at least 13 women travelled to Britain for an abortion, new figures show.

While the number of women giving Irish addresses at British abortion clinics has been dropping since 2001, a significant number are travelling to the Netherlands for terminations.

The statistics, compiled by the Department of Health in Britain, show that 4,686 women who had an abortion last year gave an Irish address, compared with 6,673 in 2001.

The latest statistics show a decrease in the number of Irish women aged between 20 and 24 who have given Irish addresses at British abortion clinic.

A total of 1,387 women aged between 20 and 24 gave Irish addresses at abortion clinics in Britain last year, compared with 1,505 in 2006.

There were 47 girls under the age of 16 who gave Irish addresses at abortion clinics in Britain last year, compared with 39 in 2006.

Irish teen abortions, however, remain steady and are much lower than in other countries.

When the Crisis Pregnancy Agency (CPA) was established in 2001, at least 18 women were travelling every day to Britain for an abortion. At 6,673, the number was also up from 6,391 in 2000.

Other jurisdictions have noticed that Irish women have been travelling to clinics since 2006, but the CPA found that the Netherlands was the only jurisdiction that had significant numbers of women from Ireland travelling for abortion procedures.

The CPA also pointed out that the number of Irish women going to Spain and Belgium was extremely low — less than 10 women were reported to have travelled to these jurisdictions for abortion procedures between 2005 and 2007.

CPA director Caroline Spillane said the provision of free crisis pregnancy counselling had increased by 50% since the CPA was established in 2001.

She said the agency had seen a “marked increase” in the number of women attending crisis pregnancy throughout the country.

“When the take-up of counselling is combined with the reduction in the number of women giving Irish addresses, we can suggest that the increased awareness of crisis pregnancy and the services provided has had an impact,” she said.

The lobby group Pro-Life Campaign welcomed the downward trend in the number of Irish women travelling to Britain for an abortion.

“At a time when abortions in England and Wales have increased significantly, the drop in the Irish rate proves that upward trends are not inevitable,” said Pro Life spokeswoman Dr Ruth Cullen.

The statistics also show that 67% of women who gave Irish addresses had an abortion when they were between three and nine weeks pregnant, 20% were between 10 and 12 weeks, while 2% were 20 weeks or more into their pregnancy.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Abortion tug-of-war over schoolgirl raped in Poland

From The Irish Times
by DEREK SCALLY in Berlin

Wed, Jun 18, 2008

A 14-YEAR-OLD pregnant girl, who says she was raped by a friend, is caught in the middle of a struggle between Poland's anti-abortion and pro-choice camps.

The schoolgirl, known only by the pseudonym Agata, is 11 weeks pregnant. Her mother says that several attempts to terminate the pregnancy - permitted under Poland's abortion laws because Agata is under-age - have failed because of interference by anti-abortion campaigners.

They say the girl is being pressured into terminating the pregnancy by her mother and pro-choice campaigners.

Agata says she was raped in April by a fellow student and the assault left her "covered in bruises" and pregnant. She went to a gynaecologist, who informed the police and Agata's mother. After discussing the matter, mother and daughter applied for permission to have an abortion. But when they went to the local hospital in Lublin, southeast of Warsaw, Agata was shown, alone, into a room where a priest was waiting.

The priest, Fr Krzysztof Podstawka, heads a local diocese organisation for single mothers called "Protection of Life".

Agata said that the gynaecologist returned later and said she would not perform the abortion.

The girl said that the doctor and priest dictated a letter to her in which she agreed to keep the baby. "I just said yes to everyone to have some peace," she told Gazeta Wyborczanewspaper. When her mother heard what happened, she contacted the Women's Federation in Warsaw and, with their help, found a clinic willing to perform the abortion.

Waiting for them was Fr Podstawka and anti-abortion campaigners. Inside, doctors refused to perform the abortion, claiming they had been threatened.

Meanwhile, authorities in Lublin received complaints about the mother's role in the case and, on their return, put Agata into emergency child care.

"I want to be a mother when I grow up, not now," she told Gazeta Wyborcza. "Now all I want is my own mother." Already in her 11th week, Polish law only allows legal terminations until the 12th week.

News From Women on Waves

Quito, Ecuador June 18, 2008

The Virgin de Panecillo revealed a banner with the text ?Safe abortion, 099004545. The number is from a hotline that will provide women with information about how they can do a safe abortion with pills themselves at home and other information related to sexual health.
The banner action was done by Women on Waves and Coordinadora Juvenil.
For pictures of the virgin with the banner and more information about the campaign see

Press information: +593 8 6966608 or +31 6 52052561
or email to

Sunday, June 8, 2008

From The Sunday Business Post: The Morning-After Pill

08 June 2008
By Jennifer O'Connell

It's time Ireland accepted that its young women are not fools and made the morning-after pill available over the counter in pharmacies

I'm not pregnant. That's not a claim I've been able to make too often over the past two and a bit years.

And as long as I'm still buying nappies in two different sizes, the prospect is enough to induce in me the kind of trepidation normally only seen in the waiting room of the Well Woman Clinic the day after the Leaving Cert results come out.

Which is perhaps why I found myself feeling a stab of indignation at the realisation that the waiting room of the Well Woman Clinic remains the refuge of choice for those who find themselves in need of somememergency contraception with their croissant on a Sunday morning.

The Department of Health and the Health Service Executive are considering the question of whether it's time we caught up with muchof the rest of the world and made the morning-after pill available over the counter in pharmacies.

The department seems to have been considering this measure on and off since Sex was the name of a book by that upstart Madonna.

The latest recommendation is one of several contained in a report by the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland. It's under review by Mary Harney's department, but there are, she says, ''major issues'' that will have to be considered first. And I think we all know what that

The second-to-last time this proposal was raised - in 2006 - it was promptly shot down by the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO). The chairman of its GP committee said his members needed to be available to lecture women in need of emergency contraception on ''the
implications of being sexually active and how to protect against sexually transmitted diseases''. Oh, and to take their €50 consultation fee for the pleasure.

In 2008, it seems nonsensical that we still insist on making young women (and according to the IMO, the vast majority are in their teens or early 20s), anxious to take responsible action to prevent an unplanned pregnancy, wait until their GP can squeeze them in on Tuesday at 11. That's if they're brave enough to see their family GP, and can afford the consultation fee.

And that's presuming they have a GP in the first place - what student living away from home does?

There is, of course, a need to ensure that anyone getting emergency contraception understands it is just that. But surely you don't need a medical degree in order to impart to teenagers the real risks of having sex without protection? I'd have thought a pharmacist was every bit as qualified to do this.

Just think about the mixed messages we are giving here to our teenagers and twentysomethings. We feed them an endless diet of sexually provocative imagery on TV and in magazines. We buy them clothes emblazoned with the Playboy logo. We manufacture alcoholic
drinks in friendly little fruit flavours.

We force them through one of the most high-pressure education systems in Europe and, when they finally come out the other end, we drop them off at discos to celebrate, wearing low-cut tops and with something akin to Paris Hilton's hairband around their waists.

Then, in case all this hothousing and pressure and alcohol conspire to have the expected effect, we make it extremely difficult for them to get the morning-after pill, because we really don't want them waiting until they've finished their education and made a decent start in life before getting on with making babies.

At least, I think that's the idea. There are two things that matter about emergency contraception. The first is that it is available in emergencies, when other methods have failed, or haven't been given the chance to work.

Such emergencies, I would venture, usually don't arise on a weekday between the hours of 9am and 5pm. The second thing is that it works for up to 72 hours after intercourse, but it is more effective the earlier it is taken. A 1998 WHO study found that it worked best in the first 12 hours after sex. After that, its effectiveness declines by the hour.

It seems like a particularly Irish solution to license the morning-after pill, but only to make it available through GPs' surgeries, and by extension to diminish its ability to prevent pregnancy.

Let's not get into Irish solutions to family planning problems: the emergency contraceptive pill does not need to get mixed up with the abortion debate. But, since we're on the subject, let me just set the record straight.

The morning-after pill works in three different ways, depending on the time of the cycle and when it is taken: it delays ovulation, alters the transport of sperm along the womb and, in case all else fails, alters the lining of the womb so as to prevent implantation of a fertilised egg – a bit like a combination of the normal pill and the IUD.

Medically and legally, it is not an abortifacient because it acts before implantation. In fact, several studies have shown that the morning-after pill works to reduce abortion rates - including one that attributed half the 11 per cent decline in the abortion rate in the US to the availability of the morning-after pill.

Aside from the ethical issues it has become tangled up with, those opposed to making it available over the counter (coincidentally, in a recent survey, they were the demographic least likely to ever find themselves frantically searching for it: namely the over-50s) appear to feel that if they made it too easy, we silly girls would just keep popping morning-after pills instead of abstaining or organising proper contraception.

Because, of course, who'd want to go to all that trouble when they have available to them a more expensive, less reliable hormone solution that offers the giddying prospect of making them vomit their guts up instead?

The morning-after pill is now available over the counter in 44 countries, including the US, where individual pharmacists have an ethical opt-out.

A recommendation from the Council of Europe that all member states make it available in this way has been adopted in France, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and Britain.

In most of these countries, it is classed as a 'non-prescription' drug, which means it is still subject to significant restrictions and usually only available following a consultation with the pharmacist.

According to the British Medical Journal, there has been no increase in its use, and no decline in the use of other forms of contraception since it went on sale without prescription. This suggests that women are continuing to use it as they always have: sensibly and
judiciously. Because to use it otherwise, surely, is not to use it at all.

As long as there are men and women, as long as there are hormones and alcohol, there will be moments of unplanned and unwise passion.

There may even be quite a few of them later this month, when 50,000 students emerge from the fog of the Leaving Cert bristling with pent-up energy and in urgent need of ways to release it.

Of course, we would prefer them not to, and if they really must, we would prefer that they used safer barrier methods of contraception that also offer protection against STDs. But this is the real world, and in the real world, who benefits from us making it more difficult for them to avoid an unplanned pregnancy?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Repairing the Damage, Before Roe

From the New York Times
June 3, 2008

With the Supreme Court becoming more conservative, many people who support women’s right to choose an abortion fear that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that gave them that right, is in danger of being swept aside.

When such fears arise, we often hear about the pre-Roe “bad old days.” Yet there are few physicians today who can relate to them from personal experience. I can.

I am a retired gynecologist, in my mid-80s. My early formal training in my specialty was spent in New York City, from 1948 to 1953, in two of the city’s large municipal hospitals.

There I saw and treated almost every complication of illegal abortion that one could conjure, done either by the patient herself or by an abortionist — often unknowing, unskilled and probably uncaring. Yet the patient never told us who did the work, or where and under what conditions it was performed. She was in dire need of our help to complete the process or, as frequently was the case, to correct what damage might have been done.

The patient also did not explain why she had attempted the abortion, and we did not ask. This was a decision she made for herself, and the reasons were hers alone. Yet this much was clear: The woman had put herself at total risk, and literally did not know whether she would live or die.

This, too, was clear: Her desperate need to terminate a pregnancy was the driving force behind the selection of any method available.

The familiar symbol of illegal abortion is the infamous “coat hanger” — which may be the symbol, but is in no way a myth. In my years in New York, several women arrived with a hanger still in place. Whoever put it in — perhaps the patient herself — found it trapped in the cervix and could not remove it.

We did not have ultrasound, CT scans or any of the now accepted radiology techniques. The woman was placed under anesthesia, and as we removed the metal piece we held our breath, because we could not tell whether the hanger had gone through the uterus into the abdominal cavity. Fortunately, in the cases I saw, it had not.

However, not simply coat hangers were used.

Almost any implement you can imagine had been and was used to start an abortion — darning needles, crochet hooks, cut-glass salt shakers, soda bottles, sometimes intact, sometimes with the top broken off.

Another method that I did not encounter, but heard about from colleagues in other hospitals, was a soap solution forced through the cervical canal with a syringe. This could cause almost immediate death if a bubble in the solution entered a blood vessel and was transported to the heart.

The worst case I saw, and one I hope no one else will ever have to face, was that of a nurse who was admitted with what looked like a partly delivered umbilical cord. Yet as soon as we examined her, we realized that what we thought was the cord was in fact part of her intestine, which had been hooked and torn by whatever implement had been used in the abortion. It took six hours of surgery to remove the infected uterus and ovaries and repair the part of the bowel that was still functional.

It is important to remember that Roe v. Wade did not mean that abortions could be performed. They have always been done, dating from ancient Greek days.

What Roe said was that ending a pregnancy could be carried out by medical personnel, in a medically accepted setting, thus conferring on women, finally, the full rights of first-class citizens — and freeing their doctors to treat them as such.

Waldo L. Fielding was an obstetrician and gynecologist in Boston for 38 years. He is the author of “Pregnancy: The Best State of the Union” (Thomas Y. Crowell, 1971).