Belfast Telegraph

Number of woman who had medical abortions in Northern Ireland

Department of Health publishes statistics on medical abortions in local Hospitals

By Allan Preston

The Department of Health has revealed that 16 woman in Northern Ireland had medical abortions and termination of pregnancies in local hospitals during 2015/16

Nine of the women were aged over 30, with five aged 25 to 29 and two women aged under 24. All 16 terminations were carried out on women who normally live in Northern Ireland.

At present abortion remains illegal in Northern Ireland except in very limited circumstances were the life or mental health of the mother is in danger.

The overall figure of 16 remains unchanged from 2014/15, but the Department said the relatively small numbers meant this could fluctuate greatly year to year.

Since 2006 the number of medical abortions and terminations of pregnancy in local hospitals has steadily decreased from 57 down to 16.

Last week Pro-life campaigners claimed that 100,000 people are alive today because abortion remains illegal in Northern Ireland. The estimated figure was based on termination rates across the rest of the UK.

Dawn McEvoy, spokeswoman for the  Both Lives Matter campaign commented: "The debate around abortion is in danger of becoming polarised by those only concerned with the unborn child on the one hand and those solely concerned with the rights of the woman on the other. The reality is that both lives matter."

The Alliance MLA David Ford has long argued that abortion should be legal in Northern Ireland for cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

Mr Ford said he was disappointed that a bill he submitted proposing the change has been halted due to the recent Assembly collapse, but he intends to put the legislation forward once again if re-elected.

Last summer the current law was challenged in a high profile court case.

Sarah Ewart (24) went public about travelling to England for an abortion in 2013 after being told her first child had a severe brain malformation and had no chance of survival.

The DUP MLA Jim Wells has said he will continue to oppose Mr Ford's bill if it returns to the Assembly floor.

"As a pro-life MLA I believe that there is no need whatsoever for any change in the current law on abortion in Northern Ireland," he said.

Amnesty International Northern Ireland director Patrick Corrigan called the current situation "disgraceful" and urged the next Health Minister to address women "left with a choice between boarding a plane or facing prosecution simply for seeking healthcare available on the NHS in every other part of the UK."

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