FRIDAY JANUARY 25TH: Twelve abortions were carried out in Northern Ireland last year, according to latest figures released by NI’s Department of Health. But the real number of women* accessing termination services is staggeringly higher, with at least 900 travelling to Britain during the same period.

Terminations are only permitted in Northern Ireland if the mother’s life is at risk. Of the abortions carried out in 2017/2018 eight involved women over 30 and four were for women aged 25-29.

Those who choose to end their pregnancies for other reasons, including in cases of fatal foetal abnormality or rape, must travel to Britain or face prosecution.

“The figures don’t paint an accurate picture,” said Hannah Little of the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign.

“They suggest just a handful of women and pregnant people needed abortions last year. In reality dozens of women a week must leave Northern Ireland to access termination services elsewhere. It demonstrates just how restrictive and unfit for purpose the current law is.”

The figures come just weeks after free abortion services became available for the first time in the Republic of Ireland, following the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

Women in Northern Ireland, who wish to terminate their pregnancies across the border, will be allowed to do so. But not on the same footing as women resident in Ireland. Instead, they’ll have to pay €450 to the Irish Family Planning Association.

“Following the referendum the Irish government pledged to ensure women from NI would be able to access abortions services in Ireland. Sadly, we now know that comes with a heavy price tag,” added Hannah Little.

“For many, including those on low incomes or mothers with children, €450 will be too large a price to pay. This fee places yet another restriction on women facing crisis pregnancies or tragic situations. The Irish government has given with one hand and taken away with another.”

Free abortion services are available to women from Northern Ireland who travel to other parts of the UK and some can access hardship travel grants. But many others still face flight and accommodation costs.

“We now have a situation where women and pregnant people living in Northern Ireland can avail of termination services in Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales – but as second class citizens receiving different care because of their postcodes.

“We of course will continue to fight for the decriminalisation of abortion and the introduction of services in Northern Ireland. But in the meantime we urge the UK and Irish governments to offer the same respect and compassion to NI women as they do their own residents.”


*incl trans and non-binary

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What is London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign?

We are the London-based branch of ARC, representing the Irish diaspora in London. We were a part of the successful campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment in Ireland and continue to fight for robust and equal access to termination services for women and pregnant people across the island of Ireland.

Hannah Little