Over 170 women from NI travel to GB for terminations as number of abortions hits record level

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A total of 251,377 abortions for women resident in England and Wales were carried out last year – an increase of 17% compared to 2021.

Official statistics show a 7% rise in the number of pregnant females from NI crossing the Irish Sea to undergo terminations.

A total of 745 abortions were carried out on women who reside in other parts of the UK in 2022 which represents an increase of 10% compared to the previous year (613).

Most non-residents came from the Republic of Ireland (27%) and Scotland (24%) with women from NI accounting for 23% of patients.

However, that number is significantly lower than previous years such as 2018 when 4,687 procedures were performed on residents of other countries.

It dropped to 2,135 in 2019, 943 in 2020 and 613 in 2021 with the Covid19 pandemic believed to have impacted the latter figure.

The decreasing trend is believed to be due to legislative changes on both sides of the border here.

“In 2022, there were 172 abortions for residents of Northern Ireland – a slight increase from 161 abortions in 2021,” the Office for Health Improvements and Disparities report states.

” Current levels remain substantially lower than the peak of 1,855 Northern Ireland resident abortions in 1990, and also lower than 10 years ago, in 2012, when there were 905 abortions.”

The repeal of laws banning abortion in the Republic back in 2018 – coupled with travel restrictions during the pandemic in 2021 – saw the number of women travelling from Ireland to England and/or Wales for a termination fall by 93% from 2,879 in 2018 to 206 in 2021.

The number has remained low at 201 in 2022.

Abortion rates in England and Wales for under 18s have declined or stayed the same each year since 2007.

However it jumped from 6.4 to 7.7 per 1,000 girls between 2021 and 2022.

“This increase was particularly marked in 17-year-olds, where the rates increased from 10.2 per 1,000 in 2021 to 12.9 per 1,000 in 2022,” the report states.

“The increase in the rates for those aged 16 and under are smaller (increased by less than 1 abortion per 1,000 women of that age).”

A pro choice group said even those who should receive care under UN anti-discrimination recommendations, including six under16s, still had to travel due to a lack of provision in NI.

Alliance for Choice warned it includes a high number of people at a very early gestation who had to travel for care with 50 women under nine weeks crossing the water.

“This is likely due to under resourced services collapsing in some Trusts because of a lack of commissioning,” a spokesperson said.

“Their needs could have been met by telemedicine which the health minister has the power to introduce but refuses to.”

Co-convenor Naomi Connor said the organisation is receiving calls every week from women who can’t find information and are facing long waiting times for call backs.

“We are also advocating for people who have been denied care locally despite meeting the regulation requirements,” she added.

“While services have improved since 2022 we know too many still have to travel, and that the regulations have not been fully implemented over five years on from decriminalisation.

Fellow convenor Danielle Roberts added: “While there has been a significant drop in the numbers travelling since the law changed, anyone having to travel for care that should be locally available is too many.

“Thanks to conscientious providers hundreds of women and pregnant people have been able to access care, but the regulations are not fully implemented with only limited surgical provision.

“Telemedicine, as available elsewhere in these islands, would also address many of the barriers.

“Alliance for Choice will continue to campaign for free safe legal and local abortion care for everyone who wants or needs it.”

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