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Northern Ireland Sees Record Number of Women Head to England for Abortions

Steven Ertelt,

Belfast, Northern Ireland ( — New reports indicate a record number of women from Northern Ireland headed to England and Wales in 2007 for abortions. Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland and abortion advocates are expected to use the figures to try to get the British Parliament to legalize it.

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey released the new stats showing 1,343 abortions in England and Wales done on women who gave a Northern Ireland home address.

That brings the total to 6,400 abortions done on women from the region in England from 2003 to 2007.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, the 2007 figures represent a rise of 48 abortions compared with the 2006 numbers and an increase of 179 compared with the 2005 numbers.

The numbers are likely higher if they included the hard-to-tabulate figures of abortions done on women traveling to Scotland or elsewhere for abortions.

McGimpsey also indicated that there were 99 abortions done in Northern Ireland in 2007, most of which were done in the rare case when the pregnancy supposedly poses a life risk to the mother. That is the only times when an abortion is legal.

Responding to the numbers, Bernadette Smyth, the head of the pro-life group Precious Life, told the Telegraph that she wanted more of an explanation of why the abortions were done and challenged their legality.

“These figures raise all sorts of further questions and we will be working to establish the answers in the New Year. A termination is illegal unless the life of the mother is at risk and there is a question as to whether these abortions were legal or illegal," she said.

“It is a serious offence to take the life of an unborn child. We want to know why each and every one of these 99 abortions were carried out. I have been given information by someone with inside knowledge who said that an abortion was carried out at a hospital in Northern Ireland because the child was disabled," Smyth added.

“We want to know what happened to the bodies of these babies and whether death certificates were issued. If any of the abortions were illegal, the medical staff involved must be questioned by police and charged," she told the newspaper.

In November, responding to questions from members of the British Parliament, Secretary of State Shaun Woodward said the British government will not expand abortion to Northern Ireland.

The question of extending the 1967 Abortion Act to the region has been hotly contested in recent months.

MPs attempted to attach an amendment to the HFE bill that would have forced abortion on Northern Ireland even though Stormont has been strongly opposed to it.

Woodward said Northern Ireland’s assembly was the best place for that battle to occur, and not in Westminster.

In October, the head of the British pro-life group Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, accused the Northern Ireland health department of promoting abortions.