By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — The number of Irish women having abortions at clinics in Britain is expected to show a steep increase as a result of millennium partying and less access to emergency contraception over the Christmas and New Year holidays.
All of the Marie Stopes International clinics throughout the UK have reported a 20 percent increase in their abortion figures for January/February compared to the same time last year.
First quarter figures for abortion clinics are traditionally high as a result of the Christmas and the New Year holidays. However, a spokesman at Marie Stopes headquarters in London said the scale of the increases this year reflected the length of the millennium celebration holiday.
"We have yet to analyze the figures to get a breakdown of the addresses but we would expect the number of Irish women to show a pro rata increase in line with the overall figure.
"The problem seems to have arisen out of the extensive millennium partying and the Irish party as well as anyone else," the spokesman said.
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The organization had been expecting a millennium increase in the figures but are surprised by its magnitude.
"The increase could be the tip of the iceberg. Its seems we may be seeing he first swathe of women who have missed their period after the holiday season.
"Others, particularly teenagers who are sometimes less aware of their bodies, may not yet have realized they are pregnant."
The Marie Stopes clinics are the main organization performing terminations in Britain outside of the National Health Service. They undertake almost 40,000 of the 170,000 abortions in Britain every year.
Irish family planning experts had already expected that the 1999 figure for the number of women giving Irish addresses at clinics in the UK would exceed 6,000 for the first time.
Official UK figures released earlier this month showed an increase of 3.3 percent for the first nine months of last year.
The real figure is thought to be higher. To protect their anonymity, many Irish women giving the UK addresses when they register at clinics.