​​6,700 safe and legal abortions in Ireland last year

Abortion is an essential part of sexual and reproductive health.

The Abortion Rights Campaign has welcomed the news that at least 6,700 people were able to access safe and legal abortions within Ireland last year.

While the Department of Health’s annual report on abortion statistics says that the minister was notified of 4,577 terminations in 2021, a supplementary note to the report explains that data collection was impacted by the HSE hack. Following further study, the Department of Health believes approximately 6,700 terminations took place in 2021.

“The amount of abortions carried out in Ireland last year underscores the consistent demand for quality, accessible abortion care in every county,” said ARC spokesperson Helen Stonehouse.

“Overall, the number of abortions is broadly similar to 2019 and 2020, and once again, people from every county in Ireland accessed abortion services. 

“The gaps in data collection mean that direct comparison of grounds-based access is not possible. It is deeply frustrating that the Department of Health has managed to investigate the discrepancies between funding claims and notification statistics, but we still do not know why so many maternity hospitals and GPs refuse to provide abortion care.”

Stonehouse pointed to the recent Unplanned Pregnancy and Abortion Care (UnPAC) Study by Dr. Catherine Conlon on behalf of the HSE, which showed that timely access to abortion remains a significant issue, particularly in rural areas. 

Excluded from the data

Stonehouse noted that the HSE data only includes provision of abortion overseen by clinicians, accounting for neither self-managed abortion through the use of abortion pills obtained online nor those who have been refused abortion care in Ireland.

“Again, from the UnPAC report, we know that at least 225 people have imported abortion pills from Women on Web,” she explained. 

“The reasons cited for importing pills included abusive relationships, lack of accessible provision, and undocumented migrant status (a PPSN is required to access abortion without cost). This indicates that legislative barriers most significantly impact marginalised groups, leaving them without adequate healthcare.

“More and better abortion provision is needed at regional and local levels to respond to current and future demand for abortion.”