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12-week gestation limit blocks abortion access as 206 women travel to UK for care

By 21 June 2022News

England and Wales abortion statistics for 2021 show harsh reality for women, girls and pregnant people excluded from care by Ireland’s abortion law

Thursday 21st June 2022

Statistics on access by residents of Ireland to abortion care in England and Wales, published today by the UK Department of Health and Social Care, paint a stark picture of the law’s exclusion of women and girls from abortion access.

206 women, girls and pregnant people accessed abortion in England and Wales in 2021. The vast majority were over 12 weeks pregnant and ineligible for termination services in Ireland. 50% were foetal anomaly cases.

Commenting on the statistics, IFPA Chief Executive Niall Behan said: “Legal abortion has transformed reproductive healthcare in Ireland, but 206 women travelled to the UK for abortion care in 2021: this tells us, unequivocally, that the law is not good enough. The 2018 Act is denying care to women and girls and forcing them to seek abortion services in the UK. This is an unacceptable injustice.”

“We know from our services that the law is also forcing some who present at under 12 weeks of pregnancy to travel outside of Ireland for abortion services. The mandatory three-day wait means that a person who presents after 11 weeks and four days cannot be provided with abortion care in Ireland.”

Mr Behan commented: “We know from our clients that exclusion from access to termination services in Ireland is traumatising. We know also that denial of care because of the gestation limit disproportionately burdens the most vulnerable, marginalised and disadvantaged. Exclusions from essential healthcare cause harm. No one should have to leave Ireland for abortion care.”

A review of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018 is currently underway.

Mr Behan said: “The 2018 Act has serious flaws which have inhumane and degrading impacts. Forcing pregnant women to access abortion care in another state because of an arbitrary cut off for eligibility in Ireland is a violation of a person’s right to bodily autonomy and self-determination.

“Today’s figures challenge policy makers with the harsh reality of exclusionary and restrictive provisions in the law. We need a legal and operational framework that meets the needs of every pregnant person. This is one of the critical issues that the review of the 2018 Act must address.”


For press and media queries please contact Communications Officer Sophie Mac Neice on 086 795 2167


  • The IFPA is a leading provider of sexual and reproductive healthcare in Ireland. The organisation offers a comprehensive range of services including contraception, abortion care and specialist pregnancy counselling, which support reproductive choice on a not-for-profit basis. The organisation promotes the right of all people to comprehensive, dedicated and affordable sexual and reproductive health information and services.
  • As an abortion provider and from the perspective of bodily autonomy and reproductive rights, IFPA is of the view that the review of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018 should lead to removal of the rigid 12-week limit and 3-day-waiting period, the full decriminalisation of abortion and revision of the foetal anomaly provision in the law to allow for more inclusive, compassionate care. You can read IFPA’s full submission to the abortion review here.
  • The 2021 abortion statistics for England and Wales can be accessed here: Abortion statistics for England and Wales: 2021 – National statistics announcement – GOV.UK (
  • Note: The UK Department of Health and Social Care collate gestation statistics in the following groupings: 2 – 9 weeks, 10 – 12 weeks, 13- 19 weeks and 20 weeks and over. Key points on the Department’s website include: “[I]n 2021, the number of women travelling to England and Wales for abortions declined from 2,879 in 2018 to 206 in 2021 (Table 12a), a decrease of 93%. The proportion of abortions for residents of the Irish Republic performed under ground C was 50%, a decrease of 18 percentage points from 68% in 2020. The proportion of abortions performed under ground E increased from 32% in 2020 to 50% in 2021 (Table 12e).” The statistics also show that a small number of women who were eligible for abortion on request in Ireland accessed services in England and Wales. According to the Department, “In 2021, 3.4% of abortions were performed at less than 10 weeks gestation, decreasing from 6.2% in 2020.”