Over 50% decrease in the number of women giving Irish addresses at abortion clinics in England and Wales over 15 year period

Increase in number of women consulting with online abortion pill service

HSE encourages women to attend free, non judgmental medical and counselling post abortion supports

The HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme (SHCPP) today, 13th May 2017 commented on figures issued by the UK Department of Health, which show that there has been a decrease in the number of women giving Irish addresses at abortion clinics in England and Wales from 3,451 in 2015 to 3,265 in 2016.[1]

According to the UK Department of Health figures, the number of women giving Irish addresses at abortion clinics has decreased from 6,673 in 2001 to 3,265 in 2016, a decline of 51%.  This equates to a decrease in the abortion rate from 7.5 per 1000 women in 2001 to 3.2 per thousand women in 2016.

The Programme also notes that figures from the Netherlands, which has emerged as the only other jurisdiction to which women from Ireland travel for abortion procedures. These figures had been steadily declining year on year, apart from 2015 when there was a slight increase. The number of women travelling from Ireland to services in the Netherlands was 31 in 2010, 33 in 2011, 24 in 2012, 12 in 2013, 16 in 2014, 34 in 2015. [2]

Commenting on today’s figures, Head of the HSE Sexual Health & Crisis Pregnancy Programme, Helen Deely said: “It appears that the rate of women travelling abroad for an abortion declined relatively rapidly between 2001 and 2007 and in recent years the decline has been more gradual.

Recent research shows that increasing numbers of women from the island of Ireland[3] are making contact with online abortion pill providers”.

Figures published by one provider would suggest a 62% increase in the number of women from Ireland contacting that online service over a five year period, from 548 in 2010 to 1438 in 2015.[4] The authors report that the number of women who consult with the service is not indicative of the actual number of women who were sent the abortion pill and  subsequently took it.  This is because women change their minds, experience a spontaneous miscarriage, decide to travel abroad to obtain an abortion or decide to continue with their pregnancy. [5]

Research reports that while the vast majority of women did not need to contact medical services following taking the abortion pill at home, approximately one in ten (9.3%) reported to the online provider that they were experiencing a symptom for which they were advised to seek medical advice and 95% sought medical advice as advised.[6]

Ms Deely continues: “If a woman takes an abortion pill and has prolonged heavy bleeding, bad pain, fainting, or other complications, we strongly encourage that she attends an emergency department or GP straight away.  Or if a woman is concerned about her health following taking an abortion pill or travelling abroad for an abortion, we would encourage her to attend a free post-abortion medical check-up funded by the HSE.  A list of services is available on www.abortionaftercare.ie.

Ms Deely continues, “We need to continue to ensure that women experiencing crisis pregnancy are aware of the free crisis pregnancy counselling services that are available in over 50 locations nationwide. Crisis pregnancy counsellors provide free, ongoing support and information to women and their partners. A list of crisis pregnancy services is available on www.positiveoptions.ie.

[1] Department of Health, UK.  Report on Abortion Statistics for England & Wales, 2016.

[2] Ministerie van Volksgezondheid, Welzijn en Sport (Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. Jaarrapportage 2015 van de Wet afbreking zwangerschap.

[3] The research does not disaggregate women from ROI and women from NI

[4] Aiken ARA; Gomperts, R; Trussell J.  October 2016.  Experiences and characteristics of women seeking and completing at-home medical termination of pregnancy through online telemedicine in Ireland and Northern Ireland: a population based analysis.  British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.  DOI: 10.1111/1471-0528.14401

[5] Ibid

[6] Aiken, Abigail R A; Digol, Irena; Trussell, James; Gomperts, Rebecca.  2017.  Self reported outcomes and adverse events after medical abortion through online telemedicine: population based study in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.  British Medical Journal 2017; 357; j2011.

Notes to Editors:

  1. Figures on abortions to women who were residents of Irish Republic are published annually by the Department of Health in UK. The reports are available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/abortion-statistics-for-england-and-wales

The abortion rate is calculated using annual population estimates for females aged 15 to 44 published by Central Statistics Office.

Abortions to women giving Irish addresses in the UK

Year Total number

of abortions

Abortion rate per 1000 females population aged 15-44*
2001 6673 7.5
2002 6522 7.2
2003 6320 6.9
2004 6217 6.7
2005 5585 5.9
2006 5042 5.2
2007 4686 4.7
2008 4600 4.5
2009 4422 4.4
2010 4402 4.4
2011 4149 4.1
2012 3982 4.0
2013 3679 3.8
2014 3735 3.8
2015 3451 3.6
2016 3265 3.2
* The rates were calculated per 1000 females aged 15-44 population based on CSO data
  1. The Netherlands emerged as the only other jurisdiction to which women from Ireland travel for abortion procedures in any significant numbers. Ministerie van Volksgezondheid, Welzijn en Sport (Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport)) has collated this data since 2010.
  2. Early medical abortion is available in limited circumstances in Northern Ireland since October 2012. The Department of Health in Northern Ireland does not gather data on abortions to women giving addresses in the Republic of Ireland in the abortion clinic in Northern Ireland so the figures are unavailable.
  3. Abortifacients (abortion pills) are not legally available in Ireland and it is not legal to supply or receive “prescription-only” medicine through online sources.  The Heath Products Regulatory Authority, in conjunction with the Revenue’s Customs Service and An Garda Síochána monitor and investigates instances of illegal supply of medicinal products in physical  sales and via the internet and actively enforces against suspected breaches of the law.
  4. The HSE Sexual Health & Crisis Pregnancy Programme is tasked with developing and implementing a national strategy to achieve the following core objectives:

I. To reduce the number of crisis pregnancies by the provision of information, advice and contraceptive services.

II. To reduce the number of women with crisis pregnancies who opt for abortion by offering services and supports which make other options more attractive.

III. To provide counselling services, medical services and such other health services for the purpose of providing support, after crisis pregnancy as may be deemed appropriate by the Crisis Pregnancy Programme.

  1. Crisis Pregnancy Counselling Services

For information about free crisis pregnancy counselling services funded by the Crisis Pregnancy Programme, members of the public can visit www.positiveoptions.ie or freetext LIST to 50444.

  1. Abortion Aftercare Services

For information about free post-abortion medical and counselling services funded by the Sexual Health & Crisis Pregnancy Programme, members of the public can visit www.abortionaftercare.ie or freetext CARE to 50444


Issued by:

National Press Office

Health Service Executive

Tel:     01 6352840

Email:   press@hse.ie