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Small decrease in women travelling to UK due to improved attitude to sexual health and better access to contraception
Tuesday, 29th May 2012

The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) has welcomed the small reduction in the number of Irish women seeking abortion services in Britain.

Figures released today (29.05.12) by the UK Department of Health show that in 2011, a total of 4,149 women providing Irish addresses had terminations in England and Wales. This represents a drop of 253 from 2010 and the lowest figure since 1991.

However, the IFPA pointed out that, although the figures show decrease, there are still over 4,000 women who have had to travel to the UK to avail of services that the Irish State criminalises.  

IFPA Chief Executive Niall Behan said: “What these statistics tell – and have indeed told us for over 20 years – is that criminalising abortion does not deter women from accessing abortion.”  

“However, there is some positive news in these figures.  The slight reduction is very welcome and the IFPA attributes this to increasingly positive and respectful attitudes to sexuality, sexual and reproductive health and better access to contraception, especially emergency contraception.”

 “But while prevention is crucial, there will always be women who need abortion services. Since 1980 we know that at least 150,000 women have had to travel to Britain for abortion services. Women, from all social and economic backgrounds and stages of life in Ireland access abortion services in the UK. Travelling for abortion services places unnecessary financial, physical and psychological burdens on women with an unplanned pregnancy.”

“Clients attending IFPA services for pregnancy counselling express anger and frustration that successive Governments have failed to address the abortion issue adequately. The IFPA’s experience is that women don’t want sympathy, they simply want access to the health services they need.”

The statistics reflect only those women who give addresses in Ireland and therefore under-represent the actual number of women travelling from Ireland to the UK for abortion services. Many women do not give their Irish address, among other reasons because of the shame and social stigma associated with abortion in Ireland. Many women from Ireland also travel for abortion services to mainland Europe, where figures are not made public.


CONTACT: Patrick Heffernan, IFPA Communications Assistant @ 01 607 4456 or

•    2011’s figure of 4,149 represents a 6% drop in the number of Irish women seeking abortion services in England and Wales.
•    Women travelling from Ireland constitute 67% of all recorded terminations carried out on non – UK residents.

The department of Health 2011 statistics are available here:

About Emergency Contraception:

Emergency contraception was made available without prescription in all pharmacies in February 2010 after the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) approved emergency contraception in Ireland for use as an over-the-counter medicine.

About IFPA:

The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) is Ireland’s leading sexual health charity. The organisation promotes the right of all people to sexual and reproductive health information and dedicated confidential and affordable healthcare services.

In 2011 the IFPA provided pregnancy counselling and advice to clients through our pregnancy counselling network of 11 centres and our national helpline (tel no: 1850 49 50 41). These services are offered to women, girls and couples for free and provided by accredited psychotherapists and counsellor