Nine women travelled from Ireland to the UK every day last year for an abortion

Over 3,400 Irish residents had terminations in England and Wales in 2015

Hundreds of women continue to travel from the Republic of Ireland to the UK every month for abortions, new statistics show.

Figures published by the UK Department of Health show 3,451 Irish residents had terminations in England and Wales last year, equating to roughly nine women every day.

The number has slightly dropped on the previous year, when 3,735 women made the journey.

The total number of abortions carried out in Britain remains fairly constant at 191,014, an increase of just under 1% since 2014.

Women with addresses in the Republic accounted for the majority (67%) of foreign nationals availing of British services.

Most travelled from Dublin (1,311), followed by Cork (280) and then Galway (156).

Source: UK Department of Health

Some 833 women from Northern Ireland - where early medical abortion is available in limited circumstances - also went to England and Wales for the procedure.

The HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme said in a statement that free counselling services are available nationwide for women experiencing crisis pregnancies, as well as free post-abortion medical check-ups and therapy.

The head of the programme, Helen Deely, added that the decline in official numbers was "welcome" and appeared to indicate that the abortion rate was "stabilising".

Reaction

The Pro Life Campaign also welcomed the decrease in the number of abortions.

Spokesperson Cora Sherlock said: "The further decline in the number of women travelling for an abortion is a positive development, particularly when you consider the serious adverse psychological effects of abortion for many women that are swept under the carpet far too much in public debate.

"There is very likely a link between women who regret their abortions talking about their negative life-changing experience and the drop in the numbers opting for abortion.

"Pro-choice campaigners wouldn't entertain this explanation for a second, but then they never acknowledge the heartbreaking stories of abortion regret."

However, the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) warned that the statistics are likely not a reflection of the actual number of women and girls in Ireland who have abortions.

“We cannot be complacent about this decrease," said chief executive Niall Behan.

"While it is impossible to quantify the extent of their use, abortion pills accessed online have had a significant impact on the decline in the number of women in Ireland seeking abortion services in the UK ...

"International evidence is clear that restrictive laws and criminal sanctions rarely stop women from having abortions, but the IFPA knows from our clients that such laws harm women’s health."

The new minority government here in Ireland has made no commitment to loosening abortion laws, despite growing pressure. 

It intends instead to establish a citizens' assembly that will make recommendations to the Dáil on constitutional changes, including on the eighth amendment.