Most Irish women who went to UK for abortion did so due to physical or mental health injury risk

Total of 201 travelled from Ireland for procedure in England and Wales in 2022, a slight decrease on the previous year

More than 120 of the women who travelled to the UK for an abortion in 2022 did so because continuing their pregnancy caused risk of injury to their physical or mental health, new figures show.

On Thursday, the UK Office for Health Improvement and Disparities published statistics on abortion in England and Wales.

According to the data, there were 251,377 abortions for women resident in England and Wales in 2022 – the highest number since the Abortion Act was introduced and an increase of 17 per cent over the previous year.

The statistics also include women who have travelled from the Republic of Ireland for an abortion. A total of 201 Irish people travelled for an abortion in England and Wales in 2022, a slight decrease on the 206 in the previous year.


In May 2018, Ireland voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment, which legalised abortion under certain conditions.

The law came into effect on December 20th of that year, meaning that abortion is permitted in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and in later cases where the woman’s life or health is at risk, or in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

As a result of this change, the number of women travelling to England and Wales for abortions has decreased significantly, from 2,879 in 2018.

Of these women who travelled in 2022, 63 per cent travelled under what is called “ground C”, which allows for abortions due to physical or mental health concerns up to 24 weeks. In Ireland, abortion is permitted in these circumstances but only up to 12 weeks.

The proportion of women travelling for an abortion under this ground increased by 13 percentage points, rising from 50 per cent in 2021.

The proportion of abortions performed under ground E – a substantial risk that, if the child were born, it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped – decreased from 50 per cent in 2021 to 37 per cent in 2022.

The proportion of abortions performed at less than 10-weeks gestation remains similar between 2021 and 2022 at 3 per cent.

According to the Department, almost all of the abortions carried out under ground C were reported as being performed because of a risk to the woman’s mental health.

In April 2023, barrister Marie O’Shea submitted a review to Government on the adequacy of the State’s abortion laws. The review recommended the decriminalisation of doctors, the removal of the mandatory three-day waiting period to access termination medication, and the introduction of a statutory obligation on healthcare workers to refrain from providing misleading information.

Ministers are set to discuss a new options paper for abortion law reform, but senior Government sources have warned that further change is unlikely before the next general election.

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is Health Correspondent of The Irish Times