Statistics from the Department of Health released this morning, show that 724 women from Northern Ireland travelled to England or Wales to have an abortion in 2016.
In total, there were 190,406 abortions carried out in England and Wales in 2016, slightly lower than in 2015 (191,014).
Natika H Halil, Chief Executive of sexual health charity FPA, said:
“Abortion is legal in Northern Ireland but only in extremely limited circumstances. Therefore, women are forced to travel to other countries to access abortion services. Despite being UK residents, women from Northern Ireland must finance their treatment, as well as travel and associated costs. Private procedures can cost as much as £2,000. The high costs involved can often result in women travelling alone with no support.
“These figures show that 109 fewer women from Northern Ireland had an abortion in England or Wales in 2016 compared to 2015. But this unfortunately is likely to mean that more women were unable to travel or afford the cost, and therefore were forced to continue with an unplanned or crisis pregnancy, or risk prosecution by buying abortion pills online.
“FPA provides the only non-directive pregnancy counselling service in Northern Ireland which supports women with information about clinics in England and will talk with them about the travel experience and the clinical procedure. Every day we see the distress that Northern Ireland’s restrictive abortion law causes to women and their families.
“Following the general election, the Conservative party is forming a government with the support of the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist party (DUP). This has rightly focused public attention on the DUP’s record in the Northern Ireland Assembly, where the party has been unwilling to reform restrictive abortion law and has blocked marriage equality for Northern Ireland’s LGBT community.
“FPA believes that the government must legislate for abortion law reform in Northern Ireland. The UK government is responsible for human rights across the UK, and the United Nations and UK courts have ruled on multiple occasions that Northern Ireland’s restrictive law contravenes these rights.
“Any potential arrangement with the DUP must not prevent the UK from meeting any human rights commitments. Instead, the Conservative party must use any partnership with the DUP to discuss the impact of Northern Ireland’s abortion law and bring it into the 21st century.”