Record 32 abortions last year before repeal changed law

A record number of pregnancies were terminated in Irish hospitals last year, including one abortion on the grounds of risk of suicide.

The annual report to Health Minister Simon Harris showed 32 pregnancies were terminated in 2018.

Thirteen involved an emergency where the mother’s life was at immediate risk.

Another 18 terminations arose due to a risk to the mother’s life as a result of a physical illness. The total more than doubled compared to 15 terminations in 2017.

There were 26 of these procedures carried out in both 2016 and 2015.

It is unclear what influence the decision of the public to support repeal of the Eighth Amendment in May last year may have had in the increase in terminations and whether it meant doctors were more likely to go ahead with the procedure.

Replaced

It is the final annual report detailing abortions under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act which legislated for the X case.

This legislation has since been repealed and replaced by the Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy Act which widened the grounds for abortion and came into effect in January.

In the case of one of the women the termination was initially turned down and it went to review. The termination was granted by the review committee.

Some of the abortions took place as the country intensely debated whether to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

Repeal paved the way for the introduction of legislation which allows for unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

It also allows for terminations in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and where there is a serous risk to health or life of the mother.

During last year’s debate many obstetricians said the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act did not go far enough and it left doctors in difficulty.

It led to complex decision-making in the case of very sick women.

They worked in the shadow of a potential 14-year custodial sentence if they made the wrong decision.

Recent figures from UK abortion clinics showed the numbers of women from the Republic of Ireland who had terminations abroad last year fell to 2,879 compared to 3,019 in 2017.

It is unclear how many abortions have been carried out since January under the new law.

A report will be published in early 2020 on its operation.

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