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Eight abortions carried out in Northern Ireland in 2018/19

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Abortion laws will soon change in Northern Ireland (PA)

Abortion laws will soon change in Northern Ireland (PA)

Abortion laws will soon change in Northern Ireland (PA)

The Department of Health has revealed eight abortions were carried out in Northern Ireland hospitals during 2018/19.

Five of the women who had the procedure were aged 30 and over, while two were aged 24 and under. One was aged between 25 and 29.

That was four less than the previous year, however the department said that, due to the relatively small numbers, the figure can fluctuate greatly year to year.

All eight of the terminations carried out in 2018/19 took place in Belfast Trust hospitals.

In October 2019, abortion in Northern Ireland was decriminalised by Westminster, however the legislation will not come into effect until April 2020.

Prior to this abortion was illegal in Northern Ireland except in very limited circumstances, such as where the life or mental health of the mother is in danger.

The number of terminations in the region has steadily decreased over the last decade, with 47 carried out in 2007/8.

Over the decades, thousands of women from Northern Ireland who were seeking an abortion had to travel to Britain to have the procedure carried out.

This figure reached its peak in 1990, when 1,855 abortions were carried out. In 2018, this number was 1,053 - an increase of 192 from 2017.

Grainne Teggart of Amnesty International called on Westminster to ensure abortion services in Northern Ireland are implemented swiftly.

"Just eight terminations were carried out in Northern Ireland for 2018/2019 – representing a tiny fraction of the number of people who travelled elsewhere in UK to access the service, and not including those who accessed pills online," she said.

“This demonstrates just how necessary our new law is. Soon, those who need a termination will have their choices treated with dignity and respect at home.

“All eyes are now on the Northern Ireland Secretary of State to ensure regulations and a swift transition to services that respect rights, choice and are fully accessible.”

In June 2017, the UK Government announced that it would fund, via the Government Equalities Office (GEO), abortions for women who reside in Northern Ireland.

The Scottish Parliament followed suit in November 2017, when it was announced it would provide termination services free of charge to Northern Ireland women, however the number of times the service has been accessed has been relatively small - fewer than 10 abortions were carried out in 2018.

While abortion has now been legalised in Northern Ireland, it still remains a highly contentious issue. Last week, a Co Tyrone priest banned members of Sinn Fein from holding a meeting in his church due to the party's stance on the issue, according to a pro-life group.

Earlier this month, newly-elected DUP MP Carla Lockhart used her maiden speech in the House of Commons to speak out against the "extreme" liberalisation of abortion laws in Northern Ireland.

"Abortion was, and should be, a devolved matter, yet this House has imposed on Northern Ireland the most extreme measures of abortion anywhere across Europe," she said.

"In Northern Ireland, abortion on request for any reason will be legalised to the point at which a baby is 'capable of being born alive'."

Belfast Telegraph