Northern Ireland

Abortion: 1,053 women from NI travelled to England and Wales

woman with doctor Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Abortions are illegal in Northern Ireland except for cases where the woman's health is at risk

The number of women from Northern Ireland travelling to England and Wales to have abortions rose by 192 in the past year.

Government statistics showed 1,053 women travelled in 2018.

However it is much lower than the peak year of 1990, when 1,855 NI women had abortions in England and Wales.

In June 2017, the UK government announced women from Northern Ireland would be able to get free abortions on the NHS in England.

Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland, except for cases where the woman's health is at risk.

Women have been able to access free abortions through the NHS in Scotland from 2017 and in Wales from November 2018.

Earlier this year it was revealed that fewer than 10 NI women had had terminations in Scotland since the Scottish Parliament changed the law.

Anti-abortion group CARE, which campaigns against a change to abortion law in Northern Ireland, said it was disappointing to see a rise in the number of women travelling to England and Wales.

Chief executive Nola Leach said: "The wider context is really important and NI's abortion rate is still significantly lower than England and Wales."

Amnesty International's Northern Ireland campaigns manager, Gráinne Teggart, said the increase was unsurprising.

The organisation wants abortion law in Northern Ireland to be reformed.

She said: "The ongoing near-total ban on abortion doesn't stop women needing or seeking abortions, it just forces them to board planes to access the healthcare.

"Women should be treated with respect and dignity and given the right to make choices about their own body at home."

The figures for England and Wales, released on Thursday, showed Northern Ireland women represented 22% of non-residents who travelled to the two countries for abortions.

Women from the Republic of Ireland made up 61% of the total.

Abortion law was liberalised in the Republic of Ireland in late 2018 following a referendum earlier the same year.

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