Figures released today by Ireland’s Department of Health reveal that 13,709 abortions have taken place in the Republic of Ireland since the country’s new abortion law was introduced on 1 January 2019.
In May 2018 a referendum on whether to repeal the Eighth Amendment – the amendment to the Irish constitution passed in 1983 that explicitly guaranteed the right to life of the unborn – took place. The “Yes” campaign received 66.40% of the vote, and 33.60% voted “No” to repealing the amendment.
Following the referendum, the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act entered Irish law on 20 December 2018 and abortion services commenced on 1 January 2019.
A total of 6,577 abortions were carried out in Ireland in 2020, according to official figures.
Official figures from the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care show an additional 194 abortions took place in England and Wales in 2020 where a Republic of Ireland address was provided. Meanwhile, 36 of the abortions that took place in Ireland in 2020 were for women from Northern Ireland, taking the number of abortions for Irish-resident women in England, Wales and the Republic of Ireland to 6,735.
Before new abortion legislation was introduced to Ireland, the number of abortions that took place in England and Wales for women who were Irish residents in 2018 was 2,879. A further 32 abortions were reported to have taken place in Ireland under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, taking the total number of abortions for Irish residents in 2018 to 2,911.
These figures show that the total number of abortions that have taken place for Irish-resident women in England, Wales and Ireland recorded in official statistics has increased from 2,911 in 2018 to 6,735 in 2020 – this represents an additional 3,824 abortions, an increase of 131%.
Commenting on today’s figures, Eilís Mulroy of the Pro Life Campaign said:
“Today’s abortion figures are devastating and are the opposite of what members of the Government repeatedly promised when they said abortions would be ‘rare’ if people voted for repeal”.
“In the space of only two years, everything that the pro-life movement warned would happen has sadly come to pass. In addition to the massive increase in abortions, we’ve seen from the recent study published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology that babies who survived late-term abortions under Ireland’s new law have been left to die without receiving any palliative or medical care. Voters were promised that nothing as horrifying and inhumane as this would ever happen. Likewise, we were told it was scaremongering to suggest misdiagnoses would occur in the detection of life-limiting conditions resulting in the deaths of unborn babies. Last week, we learned about the High Court settlement after baby Christopher Joseph Kiely was aborted following a misdiagnosis, leaving his parents bereft and devastated. How many other babies were aborted in similar circumstances under the new law?”
The campaign to expand abortion access in Ireland
A review of Ireland’s abortion legislation is currently being undertaken by the Department of Health, while abortion campaigners in Ireland are campaigning for abortion access to be even more expansive.
The ‘Termination for Medical Reasons’ group has stated that its “number one” request is the total decriminalisation of abortion for medical practitioners, who can face up to fourteen years in prison if found guilty of providing an abortion outside the provisions of the 2018 Act.
The ‘Abortion Rights Campaign’ is requesting that the ‘DIY’ at-home abortion service, permitted under lockdown regulations, be made permanent. They are also in favour of eliminating gestational limits enshrined in the current abortion law.
There are also ongoing calls to enforce censorship zones around medical premises where abortions are performed. In the wake of the referendum vote in 2018, Minister for Health Simon Harris pledged to legislate for “safe access zones”. However, this legislation is yet to be proposed and the Department of Health has said that “a number of legal issues were identified which necessitated further consideration”.
A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson, said: “Every single abortion represents a failure by society to protect the lives of babies in the womb and a failure to offer full support to women with unplanned pregnancies. Those who campaigned to repeal the eighth amendment claimed that this would not increase abortion figures in Ireland, but the figures show a very large increase. It is tragic that Ireland failed to protect the unborn, but also that campaigners are seeking to further radicalise regulations”.