By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN – A record number of women traveled to Britain from Ireland for an abortion last year, according to figures released by the UK Office for National Statistics.
There were at least 5,325 Irish abortions in 1997, compared with
4,894 in 1996, an increase of 8.8 percent.
The figures include only those women who gave Irish addresses when they arrived at abortion clinics in Britain – so the number may be higher.
Abortion is illegal in Ireland except in special circumstances
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where the life of the mother is threatened. However, none of the nation’s hospitals carry out terminations.
Since a 1995 referendum, women are entitled to receive information about abortion clinics, but counseling services must not advocate or promote abortion.
Irish Family Planning Association chief executive, Tony O’Brien, said the statistics were a reminder that Irish abortion was a daily reality.
“No legislative or constitutional prohibition has ever, or will ever, stop women terminating unwanted pregnancies,” O’Brien said. He added that the UK figures had to be treated cautiously.
“In making a judgment about the rate of increase, we don’t know if
the fact that abortion information is now available in Ireland has made women more likely to give their address rather than remain anonymous,” he said.
Last year, a major political and legal row erupted about a decision by the state-funded Eastern Health Board to bring a 13-year-old Traveler rape victim to Britain for an abortion.