Over 560 people travelled from Ireland to Britain for abortion services in 2020, UK figures show

The data released by the UK government shows at least 10 people a week travelled to avail of care in England or Wales.
Over 560 people travelled from Ireland to Britain for abortion services in 2020, UK figures show

Approximately 565 people from the Republic of Ireland and the North travelled to England and Wales to avail of abortion services last year according to figures released by the UK government.

Last year, 943 abortions were carried out in England and Wales where the person gave an address outside those two countries.

The figures show 39.3 per cent (371) of these people gave addresses in Northern Ireland, while 20.6 per cent (194) said they were resident in the Republic of Ireland.

This figure does not take into account people who chose to give a different address to their actual residence.

The release noted the number of people availing of the service who gave an address outside England and Wales decreased dramatically from 2019 figures, when 2,135 cases were recorded, likely due to travel restrictions imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It also states that for people who gave an address in the Republic, 6 per cent of abortions were performed at less than 10 weeks gestation.

68 per cent were performed under 'Ground C' which the reports explains as: "The pregnancy has NOT exceeded its 24th week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman", while 32 per cent were carried out under 'Ground E', meaning: "There is substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped".

'Grossly unacceptable gaps in the service'

Commenting on the figures, Abortion Rights Campaign spokesperson JoAnne Neary said: "Despite abortion having been legalised in the Republic since January 2019, and decriminalised in Northern Ireland since October 2019, there clearly remain grossly unacceptable gaps in the service provision on this island.

"We are aware that people are still travelling because of the mandatory three-day wait, because of the strict 12-week limit on care, because of a complete lack of local services in several areas and many other barriers to abortion care."

"The authorities both North and South need to start respecting the human rights of women and pregnant people on this island. The promises of the Repeal referendum are not being lived up to," Ms Neary added.

The Abortion Rights Campaign and Alliance for Choice are now calling on the Government to use this year’s Review process to break down the barriers to accessing abortion here.

They are also urging the Northern Ireland Executive to immediately commission abortion services which meet best practice in all health trusts in the North.

Ms Neary added: "Until we have free, safe, legal and local abortion everywhere, and complete decriminalisation and removal of restrictions, we will continue to see people forced to travel year after year.

"We look forward to the day when we don’t have to make an annual statement on the UK statistics, condemning the inevitable results of failure to provide care at home."

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