Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Irish Times: Numbers travelling for abortion drop


Tue, May 25, 2010

The number of women who gave Irish addresses at British abortion clinics decreased for the eighth year in a row last year, new figures show.

Statistics published by the UK Department of Health said some 4,422 women gave Irish addresses at clinics in 2009, down from 6,673 in 2001.

The HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme said the abortion rate of women giving Irish addresses at clinics has dropped from 7.5 per 1,000 women aged 15-44 (in the UK only) in 2001, to 4.5 per 1,000 women last year (in the UK and Netherlands).

The highest number of those who travelled to the UK for abortions last year were in the 20-29 age group (2,398 women). A total of 38 girls under the age of 16 and 155 girls aged 16 and 17 who had abortions last year gave Irish addresses.

A total of 258 women aged 40 and over also travelled to England and Wales for abortions.

Of those women giving Irish addresses, some 68 per cent terminated their pregnancy at between three and nine weeks gestation.

A total of 18 per cent terminated at between 10 and 12 weeks, 12 per cent had abortions at between 13 and 19 weeks, and 2 per cent terminated at 20 weeks or over.

The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) welcomed what it said was the “small reduction” in the number of women travelling for abortions.

IFPA chief executive Niall Behan said: “While this trend is a step in the right direction the harsh reality behind these statistics is that every day 12 women must make the journey to Britain to access safe and legal abortion services.

“These figures are compelling evidence of the need for domestic-based abortion services in Ireland.”

Mr Behan said the Government’s “failure to face reality means that women's and girls' rights are being denied on a daily basis”.

“The criminalisation of abortion has little impact on abortion rates; it merely adds to the burden and stress suffered by women experiencing crisis pregnancies.”

He said that since 1980, at least 142,060 women travelled to Britain for abortion services.

“This figure highlights the hypocrisy of Ireland's laws on abortion, which are among the most restrictive in the world.”

Dr Ruth Cullen of the Pro-Life Campaign said: “Groups advocating abortion in Ireland claim that we need to introduce abortion here to ‘confront the reality of crisis pregnancy’.

“This attitude completely ignores the humanity of the unborn child and the latest peer reviewed research showing the negative consequences of abortion for women,” she said.

“Rather than seek to have abortion introduced in Ireland, we should see the latest reduction in the abortion rate as very encouraging and work together to ensure this downward trend continues.”

Director of the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme, Caroline Spillane, noted the “sustained decline” in the number of women giving Irish addresses at abortion clinics in the UK.

“The Crisis Pregnancy Programme along with many other organisations working in the area of sexual health have given strategic focus to initiatives aimed at preventing crisis pregnancy and also to improving the supports which are in place for those who do experience a crisis pregnancy,” she said.

“We hope that these statistics are an indication that this work is having a real impact in reducing the instance of crisis pregnancy in Ireland.”

Last December, the European Court of Human Rights heard a challenge to Ireland’s abortion laws from three women living here.

In the case – known as A, B and C versus Ireland – the women are challenging the State’s abortion laws on the basis that they were forced to travel abroad to terminate a pregnancy which threatened their health or wellbeing. A judgment is expected later in the year.

© 2010 irishtimes.com