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?

  • Cruimh

    George – as the IFPA point out
    “There are no statistics to account for the number of women who travel to other countries for abortion services.”

  • George

    I know. From the above post:

    “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.”

    There a scoping survey underway at present to assess the numbers travelling elsewhere.

    Doesn’t change the reality that there is a huge discrepancy in the abortion rates in both countries. The question is why?

  • Cruimh

    George – I read somewhere recently, might have been the Irish news – that more Irish women are choosing to give local addresses .

    I don’t know why there should be a difference. Presumably social factors.

  • joeCanuck

    “The question is why?”

    I’m confused as to why there should be a question at all.
    Is there a difference in the per capita consumption of bananas, for example, and should we be concerned about it?

  • Jocky

    The UK is full of evil child murdering woman?*

    Irish ratio – 5.2
    UK ratio – 18.3

    *sorry that should read the UK has 3.5 times more evil child murdering woman than Eire.

    Seriously though, cultural reasons?

    How many legal abortions were there in Ireland last year? <100?

    would be interesting to find out what the estimate for Irish woman coming to the UK is, the current method of relying on them volunteering their address isn't the best basis for statistical analysis, how many would give a friend or relatives UK address in place of their Irish address?

  • Cruimh

    One thing – how common are illegal abortions in Ireland ?

  • Jocky

    I was going to say “If woman were using abortion as birth control the amount of repeat abortions would be much higher than the current UK levels” but I just checked the figures a whopping 32% of woman who had an abortion last year had had one previously.

    1/3 of woman using abortion as birth control. Not really rare is it.

    On the plus side two thirds 68% of aboritons were before 10 weeks, which knocks off the is it a baby arguement. And may explain why woman are doing it. Take the pill, problem solved. Just like birth control.

    Although it’s not a recent trend abortion rate have been above 15% in the UK since 1989.

    George, this story was in the Telegraph last month. Tele

  • Cruimh

    “Seriously though, cultural reasons? ”

    I was thinking along the lines of the acceptance of abortion in the respective societies and the relative status of religious values in respect both of “morality” and sanctity of life, as well as the prominence of feminism. As far as I can see in these areas Ireland is still quite a conservative country.

    It’s a hugely complex issue – I’d be interested to know what percentage of the abortions are carried out on married women.

  • joeCanuck

    “how common are illegal abortions in Ireland ?”

    Here’s some food for thought Cruimh.
    A few years after Roe v Wade in the USA, the Canadian government legalized abortion but only in state (provincial) hospitals.
    Some of the more religiously Christian (read Catholic) provinces declined to provide the necessary facilities, so women, if they had the money (Health Care entitlements are not transferable across provincial borders) had to travel considerable distances.
    A doctor by the name of Dr. Morgenthaler, therefore, openly, set up freestanding clinics where he and like minded colleagues provided abortion services. The authorities, of course, hauled him before the courts, quite a few times.
    His defence was one of necessity (although it is illegal to wander about the streets naked, it is permissible in an emergency if, for example your house caught on fire in the middle of the night), and Jury after Jury agreed with him. Eventually the Government had to change the law.
    As an aside, Dr. Morgenthaler did spend time in jail. After his first (?) acquital the state appealed and the High Court reversed the jury verdict. There was such a public outroar that the Government was forced to change the law. A High Court in Canada can no longer reverse a jury verdict; all they can do is order a retrial.

  • Shouldn’t something be said about Irish women being, it seems, much more careful when they have sex – i. e., the use contraceptives of one sort or another no matter what the Church prescribes?

  • joeCanuck

    Is abortion readily available in the North or do Northern women and girls have to travel too?
    We may have discussed this a year or so ago.

  • Kevster

    I’m glad to see the numbers of Irish abortions and teenage pregnancies fall. I wish we knew why so it could be duplicated elsewhere.