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Abortion and the Law

Abortion and the Law

Until recently most women in the Republic and Northern Ireland could not obtain safe, legal abortion treatment in Ireland – so nearly 4,500 women travelled to the UK for treatment each year.

  • Abortion is legal in the UK where BPAS provides quality abortion care up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Irish women can travel from Ireland to terminate a pregnancy
  • Rape, incest or a diagnosis of foetal anomaly does not entitle women to legal abortion treatment in Ireland.

Women in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland can now get free abortion care and details are below.  Women can still choose to 'travel' and pay for their abortion care in the UK.

Republic of Ireland

Following on from the referendum to repeal the 8th amendment, legislation to provide for abortion services in the Republic of Ireland was passed on 13th December 2018.  From January 1st 2019, abortion services are provided in Ireland by the HSE, (by GP's in the community or family planning services, maternity units and hospitals).

The HSE provides Abortion care free of charge to women who normally live in Ireland.

The new law allows for abortion in the following circumstances only:

  1. Up to 12 weeks of pregnancy. Women under 9 weeks pregnant are mainly cared for by GPs.  Women between 9 and 12 weeks pregnant are cared for in hospital
  2. Where there is a risk to the life, or serious harm to the health of the pregnant woman.  These women will be cared for in a hospital setting.
  3. Where there is a condition likely to lead to the death of the foetus before or shortly after birth.  These women will be cared for in a hospital setting.

The HSE has an unplanned pregnancy support service called My Options to provide information on both ongoing pregnancy, and how to access abortion in Ireland.

Northern Ireland

Abortion is legal in Northern Ireland if continuing the pregnancy “threatens the life of the mother”, or would “adversely affect her mental or physical health”.  The “affect” on mental or physical health must be “real and serious”, and “permanent or long term”.

Abortion is allowed in exceptional circumstances, but it isn’t clear what those circumstances are. Women could face imprisonment if they have an illegal abortion.  Healthcare professionals won’t risk prosecution by carrying out an abortion which may not be legal.  Guidelines to explain the situation are awaited.

Women in Northern Ireland are UK citizens and UK taxpayers, but they can’t have an NHS funded abortion in England. However the Government Equalities Office now fund the cost of treatment, and in the case of hardship may fund some travel expenses

Informing choices NI provides unbiased pregnancy counselling which includes abortion information.