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Press release: UK Department of Health abortion statistics show that no matter the law, people still travel for abortion. Abortion Support Network believes even one person is too many.

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UK Department of Health abortion statistics show that no matter the law, people still travel for abortion. Abortion Support Network believes even one person is too many.


13 June 2019


  • 2018 Department of Health numbers shows an increase in numbers travelling from Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man and a slight decrease in the numbers travelling from the Republic of Ireland
  • While calls to ASN went down, those who did contact required more than usual funding, and the charity gave more than £90,000 in grants in 2018
  • Law changes in the Republic of Ireland and the Isle of Man will mean fewer need help from those countries, but ASN still here from those who fall through the cracks of legal provision
  • Women in Northern Ireland are still left behind due to total lack of legal abortion provision


The 2018 abortion statistics published by the Department of Health today show that 213 fewer people travelled to England from the Republic of Ireland, 192 more people travelled from Northern Ireland and 11 more people travelled from the Isle of Man in comparison with numbers in 2017.


We expect the reduction in numbers from the Republic of Ireland is due to the fact that the campaign around repealing Ireland’s 8th amendment had the unintended effect of promoting the existence of reputable organisations offering safe but illegal early medical abortion pills online. Today’s statistics are from the time before legal abortion provision became available in Ireland on 1 January 2019.


At the same time, for the first time in our almost ten year history, Abortion Support Network (ASN) has seen a decrease in calls from Ireland and Northern Ireland. We also received a 12.5% increase in calls from the Isle of Man. We expect the decrease in calls to ASN from Northern Ireland, as well as the increase in numbers travelling, is due to the availability of free care in England for those in Northern Ireland who can get here, in effect since July 2017.


ASN Founder Mara Clarke says:


“Each call or email to ASN tells a story of a real pregnant person forced to ask strangers in another country for money to get an abortion. These calls and emails tell the true story of what happens when countries enforce draconian abortion laws.


Making abortion against the law never stops abortion. It makes abortion inconvenient for those with financial and other supports, and catastrophically impossible for those who are marginalised, at risk, or poor. Women and pregnant people who can travel, do. Those who can’t are forced to continue unwanted pregnancies, opt to take safe but illegal early medical abortion pills, or, fearful of criminal prosecution if caught taking pills, do more dangerous things to attempt to self-abort.


While the legal landscape has changed to allow legal provision of abortion in 2019 in the Republic of Ireland and the Isle of Man, we continue to hear from people in both jurisdictions who fall through the cracks of legal provision. And of course in Northern Ireland the Department of Health has done nothing to promote the availability of free care in England, which, while not ideal, is better than nothing.


And of course the DoH numbers do not capture the women who cannot travel – women who need, but cannot obtain, passports or visas needed to travel; women who cannot escape from violent partners; women who do not have someone who can provide childcare from 5 am until late at night. The numbers also do not contain those who are delayed by obstacles to a point where they are beyond the 24 week time limit for abortions and must continue their pregnancies.


There needs to be free, safe, legal, local abortion in all countries, full stop. ASN’s experience shows how catastrophically lack of abortion access can impact people in general and the most vulnerable people specifically. What keeps us up at night are the people who need abortion care who do not know that there is help available.”


Case Studies


These are some of the people who contacted ASN in 2018:


“I’m currently looking at going to the UK for an abortion however I currently don’t work and I’m on social welfare. Would you be able to help me in anyway? As the cost of the procedure is overwhelming me. I’m unable to ring your Irish number as I don’t have credit. Could someone please give me a call back?”


“I’m in a dilemma. I travelled to England to have an abortion and paid for flights and a hotel for 2 nights. However when I got there, I was one week beyond where I had thought and there was no doctor to help me on that day so I need to fly back next week to have the abortion. Is there any way I could get help with funding as I now have to pay for procedure on top of new flights and I am on social welfare.”

“I have four children and we are homeless 17 months. We are living in emergency accommodation with very little money. I am a single mother with great financial difficulties and ongoing struggles with being homeless. I urgently need help because I cant cope with this pregnancy. Please please help”

“I am unemployed, the father has left, I cannot afford to care for this child by myself financially or mentally, I don’t know what else to do or where else to turn, my family would never forgive me if I told them I did this, any help you can give me please.” 


“My partner has called social services on me, saying I’m a bad mum as he is against abortion and tries to keep me in the house. It’s your body you should be able to choose, if you’re in an abusive relationship and you don’t want to be tied to the man you should be able to make those decisions about your body.” 


“I am not sure I want an abortion but I’m a single mum so I can’t afford one anyway.”

“I can’t have a baby right now. I don’t want any judgement or anything like that. I just don’t want a kid. I’m not sad about my decision, I’m very clear about it, but I’m alone and I don’t have the resources to do it.”




For enquiries please contact:


Mara Clarke, Director, Abortion Support Network

[email protected]

07913 353 530


Notes for Editors


  1. Official numbers of women travelling for abortion

For the third year in a row, the Department of Health has reported that there has been a decrease in the number of abortions performed for women giving addresses in the Republic of Ireland and the Isle of Man. The numbers for NI have increased due to the provision of reimbursed costs for NI women as of July in 2017.


2016 Total                          4,077

Irish Republic                       3,265

Northern Ireland                   724

Isle of Man                           88


2017 Total                           4,095

Irish Republic                       3,092

Northern Ireland                   919

Isle of Man                           84


2018 Total                          4,027

Irish Republic                      2,879

Northern Ireland                 1,053

Isle of Man                            95


The full report and data tables can be found here:


  1. Numbers of women contacting Abortion Support Network


2016 Total                        801

Irish Republic                     524

Northern Ireland                  166

Isle of Man                          12

Other/Unknown                   99


2017 Total                          1009

Irish Republic                      685

Northern Ireland                  184

Isle of Man                          16

Other/Unknown                   124


2018 Total                          820

Irish Republic                      625

Northern Ireland                  54

Isle of Man                          18

Other/Unknown                   124



  1. The cost of abortion. Women who travel from Ireland to England for an abortion have to pay for their travel and often that of a partner, friend or family member accompanying them (last minute air fares and travel to and from the clinic), can need to pay for accommodation to stay overnight, and must pay for the procedure as a private patient. The cost of the procedure at a clinic in England ranges between £415 to £1410, plus more if treatment in a hospital (as opposed to a clinic) is required), depending on the stage of pregnancy and where the abortion takes place. Some must also pay the costs of childcare for children back home, lose income due to time off work, travel documents, and other costs.


  1. About Abortion Support Network. Abortion Support Network (ASN) is a volunteer-driven charity that provides financial assistance, accommodation and confidential, non-judgemental information to women forced to travel from Ireland, Northern Ireland, Malta, Gibraltar and the Isle of Man pay privately for abortions abroad.  The cost ranges between £400 and £2000 depending on circumstance and stage of pregnancy. While other organisations campaign for much needed law reform, ASN is the only group on record providing women travelling for abortions with the thing they need most immediately: money. Twitter: @abortionsupport