Belfast Telegraph

Fall in number of abortions in Northern Ireland - 13 terminations in a year

Reacting to the figures, Green Party MLA Clare Bailey said:
Reacting to the figures, Green Party MLA Clare Bailey said: "It is shocking that in 2016/17 only 13 women were deemed 'suitable' to access reproductive healthcare at home, while 724 women from Northern Ireland were forced to travel to England and Wales."

By Victoria Leonard

New statistics show that 13 pregnancies were terminated in NHS hospitals in Northern Ireland in 2016/17 - three fewer than the previous year.

The Department of Health's Termination of Pregnancy Statistics also reveal that 12 were carried out on women who are normally resident in Northern Ireland.

Only one termination was performed on a woman from another country.

When broken down by age, the majority of the terminations - seven - were carried out on women aged 30 years and over.

Meanwhile, one was carried out on a woman aged between 25 and 29, and five were performed on women aged 24 and under.

Seven of the abortions which took place in 2016/17 occurred in the Belfast Trust area.

The Department of Health did not reveal where the other terminations were performed in order to "protect patient confidentiality".

Reacting to the figures, Green Party MLA Clare Bailey said: "It is shocking that in 2016/17 only 13 women were deemed 'suitable' to access reproductive healthcare at home, while 724 women from Northern Ireland were forced to travel to England and Wales.

"The numbers of women needing to access abortion have remained around the 1,000-a-year mark but how they are accessing reproductive healthcare has changed, with 1,438 women in NI purchasing abortion pills online from one provider in 2015.

"I have consistently asked the Department of Health to urgently revise their guidance to medical practitioners to ensure that doctors no longer fear the threat of prosecution which was clarified by the Public Prosecution Service and also to provide clear care pathways for women who can now access free abortions in the rest of the UK. I am still awaiting a substantive reply from the department."

The new figures emerged as the News Letter reported that a senior role has been created within the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) to deal with issues around abortion and same-sex marriage.

A spokesperson for the NIO reportedly confirmed it was recruiting for the position, but said that it had "no plans to intervene in these areas of devolved competence".

An NIO spokesperson later said that the posts are "not newly created" but are "existing posts which are being filled following staff moves".

"The government does receive a significant amount of correspondence on a variety of matters across devolved issues from a range of interested parties, and to whom it has to respond," she said.

"The job description is purely illustrative of the types of sensitive issues that are raised.

"The post holder will also deal with a range of other matters including human rights and Brexit. There is absolutely no correlation between the recruitment of these staff and the current political process."

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