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‘Desperate,’ Irish women seek abortions in Britain, study shows

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — Irish women going for abortions in British clinics are made more "desperate" because by the lack of legal pregnancy terminations at home, one in five are teenagers, and in the last three years 53 of them were under 16, according to a new study.

The statistical analysis of some of the women traveling to the UK for abortions comes as the Oireachtas all-party Committee on the Constitution concludes hearings and deliberates on what recommendations it will make on how the problem should be dealt with.

The Irish Family Planning Association, in conjunction with the British Pregnancy Advisory Services, examined the circumstances of 8,629 women who gave Irish addresses to BPAS clinics since 1997.

BPAS is the largest provider of abortions to Irish women in Britain, responsible for 2,445 of the 6,214 terminations last year.

The director of communications with BPAS, Ann Furedi, said there is no doubt that Irish women are having abortions in Britain in large numbers.

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"Laws and constitutional bans against abortion do not prevent it," Furedi said at a July 18 press conference. "They simply cause women the distress of travel, of having to raise difficult sums of money, and sometimes having to conceal their actions. . . . The women we see from, Ireland are like the women we see from England, except they are made more desperate by the lack of legal abortion here."

The figures show that in 1999, 54 percent of the women come from the Eastern Regional Health Board area of Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow.

There were 11 percent from Cork and Kerry, 8.5 percent from Clare, Limerick and Tipperary and 8 percent from Galway, Mayo and Roscommon.

BPAS has also provided abortions for 1,359 girls between 16 and 19 since 1997.

The IFPA’s chief executive, Tony O’Brien, stressed that the number of Irish women traveling to the UK for abortions is very likely higher than reported, noting that many of them didn’t give a correct address.

About 3.5 percent of all Irish women had abortions later than 20 weeks into their pregnancy. The legal limit in Britain is 23 weeks.

The study also found 39.5 percent of Irish women were "self-referred," indicating that they had no counseling in Ireland before traveling.

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