The 2019 Irish abortion statistics have just been published. And they make for very sobering reading.
In total in 2019, 6,666 Irish unborn children lost their lives to abortions carried out in Ireland. Add the 375 abortions performed on Irish women in England and Wales this year and the total is 7041. This averages out at 19.29 abortions a day. For comparison, during the referendum campaign the pro-repeal side talked constantly about how twelve women a day either travelled to Britain to get an abortion or used abortion pills.
Even if the pre-repeal figure is slightly higher than that, these new figures still represent a large increase. As we’ve argued in a previous post, a generous estimate for the number of abortions carried out on Irish women in 2018, counting abortions performed in England and Wales as well as the Netherlands, and abortion pill use, was 5086. That’s 13.93 per day.
It’s clear that Repeal of the eighth amendment has lead to a large increase in the number of abortions: a year-on-year percentage increase of 38.4%, or roughly 1955 additional lives lost as a result of repeal of the 8th amendment (using 2018’s figures as a baseline). It looks like between five and six additional lives were lost every day last year as a result of repeal.
Unfortunately the 2018 Act which legalised abortion does not require the detailed reporting of statistics unlike the England and Wales annual abortion figures. Still, our Act does detail how many abortions were obtained under each of the four grounds.
Section 12 permits abortion for any reason up to 12 weeks. 6,542 unborn children lost their lives under this ground. This represents 98.2% of abortions overall.
Section 11 permits abortion for babies with life limiting conditions/fatal foetal abnormalities – i.e. where ‘there is present a condition affecting the foetus that is likely to lead to the death of the foetus either before, or within 28 days of, birth’. 100 unborn children lost their lives under this ground. There is no gestational limit for these kinds of abortions. This represents 1.5% of abortions overall.
Section 10 permits abortion where there is ‘an immediate risk to the life, or of serious harm to the health’ of the pregnant woman. Three unborn children lost their lives under this ground, 0.32% of abortions overall. There is no gestational limit for an abortion under this ground.
Section 9 permits abortion where there is ‘a risk to the life, or of serious harm to the health, of the pregnant woman’. The gestational limit for an abortion under this ground is viability, which is not precisely defined in the Act, but is understood to mean approximately 24 weeks. 21 unborn children lost their lives under this ground, 0.32% of abortions overall.
On a table, it looks like this:
Abortion became legally available in Ireland from 1 January 2019 following the repeal of the 8th Amendment the previous year. These newly-released statistics cover the period from 1 January to 31 December 2019, and take account of both medical abortions (which usually happen at home, when a women is given abortion pills to take) and surgical abortions (which happen in maternity hospitals).
These are a reflection of how many lives the 8th Amendment saved annually.
Per our previous explainer blog, it could be very reasonably estimated (notwithstanding the significant uncertainties over the number of illegal abortion pills taken) that a generous upper bound of 5,086 ‘Irish’ abortions took place in 2018.
Now for 2019, when you add the 6666 Irish abortions to the 375 women who travelled to England for an abortion last year, that gives the total number of Irish women who had abortions as 7041.
To help visualise this dramatic increase, just take a look on this graph, year on year (NL = Netherlands):
In comparison to the previous ten years of estimated statistics, just take a look at this graph:
And taking the long view, it looks like this:
As we can see from the graph, annual Irish abortion numbers have drastically declined since their 2001 peak of 6673: it looks like repeal has undone all of that progress, and more.
These 2019 Irish abortion statistics make for upsetting reading for those who care about the dignity of all human life, both born and pre-born. It’s worth taking a moment to acknowledge the grave reality of what they mean – 7041 lives lost, and approximately 1955 more lives lost than last year. It’s right and proper to want to lament this tragedy: we all thought that repeal would lead to a large increase in lives lost, but we all very badly wanted to be wrong. Yet let this motivate you and spur you on in your activism and advocacy for the right to life of unborn children and in supporting women who find themselves in a crisis pregnancy.
If you voted for repeal on the basis that people who wanted to have abortions would travel or use abortion pills anyway, and you sincerely believed that the eighth amendment wasn’t saving any lives, today should also be an opportunity for reflection. There is no shame in changing your mind: on the contrary being willing to adjust your position in the light of new evidence is a sign of open-mindedness. If this describes you and you’re wondering what to do next, feel very free to reach out to us on social media or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
We’ll be writing more on this soon.
The Minimise Project