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IFPA and BPAS Release Detailed Irish Abortion Statistics

By August 24, 2000News

– Release date: 25 August 2000

At a joint news conference in Dublin this morning the IFPA Ireland's national family planning association, and BPAS, Britain's largest specialist provider of abortion services, released the most detailed analysis of Irish abortion statistics ever published.

BPAS is a non profit registered charity which provides care to 50,000 women annually and which works in partnership with the national health service in Britain. BPAS has services throughout England Scotland and Wales.

Between January 1997 and December 1999 BPAS provided just under 42% of all the Irish abortions included in official UK statistics, totalling 7,629. So far this year (January – June) BPAS has provided 1,012 abortions to women giving an address in the Republic of Ireland. Over the last three and a half years BPAS has also provided 1,389 abortion services to women giving an address in Northern Ireland.

Speaking at the opening of the press conference the IFPA's Chief Executive Tony O'Brien said:

"As the all party hearings on abortion have now been concluded and the committee has entered its deliberative phase we believe that it is useful to shed more light on Irish abortion statistics. One of the downside consequences of the current situation is that we know too little about the circumstances of the women behind these statistics. We are extremely grateful to the BPAS charity for devoting its resources to helping us examine this aspect more closely. As the providers of 42% of all known Irish abortions over the past three years, BPAS is uniquely well placed to help us to get a better picture. Such a large statistically valid sample enables us to reach conclusions applicable to the overall total of known Irish Abortions. Seeing the reality of Irish Abortion should help us to face up to it."

"It is important that I should stress that the official UK abortion statistics for Irish women may well be understated, due to non disclosure of correct address. This may also apply to BPAS statistics. Conclusions as to the overall rate of Irish abortion or trends in any such rate should not be reached or regarded as reliable."

In her opening remarks, Ann Furedi, BPAS director of Communications said: "There is no denying that Irish women have abortions. Last year, BPAS provided abortion care for almost 2,500 women from the Republic of Ireland. This year the numbers are likely to be the same. Laws and constitutional bans against abortion do not prevent it. They simply cause women the distress of having to travel, of having to raise difficult sums of money, and sometimes having to conceal their actions."

"We see teenagers who arrive, sometimes alone, but more usually with their mum or an aunt. We see married women in deprived circumstances, who adore their existing children but know they would be unable to support another. We see professional women who feel unable, or unwilling, to take on the responsibilities of motherhood. We see women who were at one time happy to be pregnant but for whom a terrible change in circumstances means that they now feel unable to have the child they once wanted. We see women who have been unable to obtain contraception and women whose contraceptive method has failed them.

"The women we see from Ireland are like the women we see from England, except that they are more desperate. They are made desperate by the lack of legal abortion here."

"The women who attend BPAS clinics receive excellent care from staff who support and respect them. But Irish women need and deserve care in their home country."

BPAS has provided the IFPA with access to data detailing age, gestation and area of residence for the 8,281 Irish clients to whom it has provided abortion services since January 1997 to 30th June 2000.

BPAS statistics analysed by the IFPA reveal the following key headline facts:

39.5% of all Irish clients, since January 1997, have "self-referred", indicating that they have not availed of counselling in Ireland before travelling. While this figure is still high it does show that 60% have accessed some form of counselling.

79.5% of all Irish clients, since January 1997, have had their abortion at 12 weeks gestation or less. UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures for 1996 indicate that this figure was 73% that year.

3.5% of all Irish clients, since January 1997, have had their abortion at 20 weeks gestation or more.