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833 Northern Ireland women travelled to Britain for abortion in 2015, Department of Health report reveals

Nine were under the age of 16, statistics reveal

By Jonny Bell

Published 17/05/2016

Unlike other parts of the UK, the 1967 Abortion Act does not extend to Northern Ireland [Picture posed]
Unlike other parts of the UK, the 1967 Abortion Act does not extend to Northern Ireland [Picture posed]

More than 800 women from Northern Ireland travelled to Great Britain for an abortion in 2015, a new report has revealed.

The Westminster Department of Health carried out 5,190 legal abortions on women in the past year whose address was outside England or Wales.

The majority - 66% - were from the Republic of Ireland, while 16% were from Northern Ireland (833).

All of the women from Northern Ireland had to fund their own procedure.

The report, released on Tuesday, shows that of those women who travelled from Northern Ireland, nine were under 16-years-old.

A total of 769 were aged between 16 and 39 with the remainder (55) over 40-years-old.

Seventy-three percent were pregnant for between three and nine weeks.

The statistics also show that 687 of the women had at least one previous abortion and 419 had had at least one pregnancy in the past resulting in live or stillbirth.

For 818 procedures (98%), doctors deemed that gestation had not exceeded 24 weeks and to continue with the pregnancy would involve "risk, greater than if the pregnancy was terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman".

Fourteen of the procedures were carried out as there was a "substantial risk to the that the child would be born physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped".

Among all the procedures, there was one complication.


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Abortion is against the law in Northern Ireland.

The maximum penalty for the crime of administering a drug to induce miscarriage under the relevant law in Northern Ireland, namely the Offences Against The Person Act 1861, is life imprisonment.

Unlike other parts of the UK, the 1967 Abortion Act does not extend to Northern Ireland.

Across the border in the Irish Republic, the offence of procuring an abortion carries a potential 14-year jail term.

There was outrage in April - from opposing groups who argued that criminal proceedings should never have been brought or that the sentencing was "unduly lenient" - of a Northern Ireland woman who took online-bought drugs to have an abortion.

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