Irish abortion rate continues to fall, UK’s continues to rise

The number of Irish women travelling to the UK for abortions continued to drop in 2006 while, in contrast, the overall figures for the UK remain on an upward trend. The same divergence was also seen in the number of teenage pregnancies in both countries.

Last year, 5,042 women gave Irish addresses at British abortion clinics, a reduction of 1,631 on 2001 figures. The number of Irish women under 20 attending British clinics fell by 292 between 2001 and 2006. Births to women under 20 in Ireland also fell during this time from 3,087 to 2,427.

This means that the abortion rate per 1000 women between the ages of 15 and 44 going to the UK has dropped from 7.5 in 2001 to 5.2 last year. According to Katharine Bulbulia, chairwoman of Ireland’s Crisis Pregnancy Agency (CPA) these UK figures account for the “vast majority” of Irish women having abortions although a small proportion have begun to travel to the Netherlands.

Meanwhile, in 2006 the total number of abortions in England and Wales was 193,700, compared with 186,400 in 2005, a rise of 3.9%. This translates as 18.3 per 1,000 resident women aged 15-44, compared with 17.8 in 2005.

The rate was at a high of 35 per 1,000, for women age 19 while the under-16 abortion rate was 3.9 and the under-18 rate was 18.2.

These figures exclude the 7,436 terminations carried out for non-residents, of which 68 per cent came from the Irish Republic and 17 per cent from Northern Ireland.

It has been put forward that British teenagers now seem to see abortion as a method of birth control but Anne Weyman, the chief executive of Britain’s Family Planning Association, said:

“The fact that there has been such a percentage rise in the numbers of women having an abortion since 2005 isn’t surprising given that contraceptive services are in crisis and at their lowest point for many years.

“Services are being cut and clinics are closing up and down the country.”

But in Ireland, where 70% of women who opt for abortion don’t even seek counselling or help from any support services, the numbers are still dropping.

“Either [ teenagers] are not engaging in sexual intercourse or they are not engaging in risky sexual intercourse and they are using contraception. All of these things are combining to make a better picture,” Caroline Spillane, CPA chief executive of Ireland’s Crisis Pregnancy Agency (CPA) said in the Irish Times (subs needed).

As a result, the number of teenage births in the Irish Republic has also dropped from 3,087 in 2001 to 2,427 last year. The big question is why the growing discrepancy between the two countries?