The 2020 Irish abortion statistics have been released. Sadly but unsurprisingly they continue to show a large increase in the number of Irish abortions since the repeal of the 8th Amendment. Sadly, in addition to the sheer volume of lives lost, Ireland’s abortion ratio (the number of abortions compared to live births) increased compared to 2019.

In 2020, 6577 unborn children lost their lives to abortions carried out in Ireland. Add that to the 194 abortions performed on Irish women in England and Wales last year, and the total number of “Irish” abortions is 6771.

Unfortunately the 2018 Act which legalised abortion does not require the detailed reporting of statistics unlike the very comprehensive England and Wales annual abortion report. Still, our Act does detail how many abortions were obtained under each of the four grounds.

Despite the common argument that abortion is necessary for women’s health, and for when the unborn child is unlikely to live, these circumstances only account for 1.85% of all abortions here. 

Section in ActGrounds for AbortionGestational LimitNumber of Abortions in 2020% of Abortions in 2020
Section 12Abortion on request 12 weeks645598.15%
Section 11Life Limiting Conditions/Fatal Foetal Abnormalities Up till birth971.47%
Section 10Emergency risk to mother’s lifeUp till birth50.08%
Section 9Risk to mother’s life/healthUp till viability (approx 24 weeks)200.3%

On a table, these figures looks like this: 

The proportion of abortions under each ground is broadly the same as 2019:

Based on today’s report, a number of things can be said:

Firstly, there was an average of 18.55 abortions a day during 2020 for Irish women. For comparison, during the referendum campaign to repeal the 8th Amendment, the pro-repeal side talked constantly about how twelve women a day either travelled to Britain to get an abortion or used abortion pills. The statistics for 2020 show the clear impact the 8th Amendment had on Ireland – it saved lives. For a more detailed analysis of pre-repeal abortion statistics see here and here.

Secondly, abortions represented 17.15% of all deaths in Ireland in 2020. 

Thirdly, the figures show a clear increase in Ireland’s abortion ratio (the number of abortions compared to live births). Irish births decreased by 6.4% in 2020, yet abortions decreased by only 1.34%.

Fourthly, Ireland’s abortion rate (the number of abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44) was 6.6 in 2020

Fifthly, during the first four months of 2020, the number of abortions rose heavily – by close to 20% compared to 2019. So had it not been for the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is likely that there would have been even more abortions in 2020 over all.

Month2019 Abortions2020 Abortion Increase
1st Quarter Total21612554+18.19%

Sixthly, not included in the report itself, but in the Government press release accompanying the report, was an interesting piece of information relating to requests for abortion which were denied in 2019, but the denial of which was subsequently appealed. There were 2 denials of a request for an abortion in 2019, and upon review one denial was reversed. 

Finally, to get a snapshot of Irish abortion statistics over the last 30 years, take a look at this chart here:

And a brief reminder: abortion became legally available in Ireland from 1 January 2019 following the repeal of the 8th Amendment the previous year. For comment on last year’s statistics see here. The most recent annual report covers the period from 1 January to 31 December 2020, and takes 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). Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, “telemedicine abortions” became available – a women didn’t need to be physically examined by her doctor before receiving the abortion pills. 

The most recent statistics report makes for sobering reading and more detailed analysis will be offered as time goes on. 

But for now, take a moment to reflect on the gravity of where we find ourselves – 6577 tiny human lives lost in 2020. Please let these difficult figures spur you on to strive for justice. 

In the words of New Wave Feminists, “when liberation costs innocent lives, it is merely oppression redistributed”.