Ireland sees large spike in reported abortions following legalization


It’s been five years since the Republic of Ireland legalized abortion, and government data has revealed the nation has seen thousands of abortions per year since then.

Earlier this year, the Health Service Executive (HSE) indicated that at least 17,820 abortions occurred with 6,577 and 4,577 notifications of abortions from medical professionals between January 1, 2019, and December 31, 2022. In 2019, the year after Ireland passed pro-abortion legislation, the number of notifications reached 6,666 – a number that the Pro-Life Campaign (PLC) reportedly said: “was not lost on lots of people.”

Compare that to the reported 15 abortions committed in 2017 and 25 committed in 2016.

More recently, the PLC noted that HSE had provided data to Parliament showing 8,876 combined reimbursement claims for “combined termination procedure and aftercare” for 2022. Ireland’s health minister similarly said in 2022 that 8,500 women had ended their pregnancies.

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Ireland had one of the most pro-life legal environments in the world under its Eighth Amendment, which asserted a mother’s and preborn child’s equal right to life. The government repealed the amendment in 2018 after citizens overwhelmingly voted to do so in a referendum. Last week marked the fifth anniversary of that referendum. 

That year, President Michael Higgins signed the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018, which restricts abortion to 12 weeks with some exceptions for abortions beyond 12 weeks due to fetal diagnosis and the life of the mother.

Both Ireland’s and the United States’ data would seem to cast doubt on the World Health Organization’s claim that pro-life laws don’t actually decrease the number of abortions. The exact number of abortions is unknown and it’s unclear how many of the reported abortions would have been committed underground with pro-life laws in place. But government data indicates that expanding abortion access comes alongside dramatic increases in reported abortions. A similar increase was seen in the U.S. after the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, and substantial drops reportedly occurred after it was overturned in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

The dramatic rise in reported abortions is shocking but it’s apparently not enough for Ireland’s pro-abortion government, which issued a report in February worrying about continued barriers to access.

In it, the HSE recommended a series of measures designed to ensure more abortions. Those included removing the three-day waiting period, which is estimated to have saved more than 1,000 lives. HSE’s report suggested more facilities be available for surgical abortions, and encouraged clamping down on conscience objections among medical professionals.

HSE also proposed removing additional “financial barriers” to obtaining the procedure. “The Department of Health should consider providing these services on the basis of residence in Ireland, thereby including people who do not have a PPS [personal public service] number, such as undocumented migrants and foreign students,” the report reads.

PLC CEO Eilís Mulroy told Catholic News Agency that the government had failed to provide adequate alternatives to abortion. PLC previously published survey results showing that “89% of people support women being offered information about alternatives before proceeding with an abortion.” 

HSE, meanwhile, has made a somewhat vague recommendation that healthcare workers be required not to give “misleading” information to women. “The Department of Health should consider introducing a statutory obligation on healthcare workers to refrain from providing misleading information or otherwise engaging in conduct that is designed to (or which could reasonably be considered as designed to) prevent or delay a woman’s access to termination of pregnancy,” HSE’s report reads.

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