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Northern Ireland abortions increase by almost 25% in 12 months, record 2,168 lives lost

by | Jun 24, 2024

By Right to Life UK

Abortion statistics released by the Department of Health in Northern Ireland this week show that a record number of 2,168 lives were ended through abortion in Northern Ireland for the year from 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023.

The figures reveal an increase of 413 abortions (23.53%) from the year ending 31 March 2022, when there were 1,755 abortions.

The statistics also show a 26.32% increase in late-term abortions at 20 weeks and over, with 24 babies being aborted at 20 weeks and over, up from 19 for the year ending 31 March 2022.

The Department of Health said that there were 40 abortions that took place in Northern Ireland that did not have a gestation recorded, so there were potentially more abortions that took place after 20 weeks.

Disability-selective abortions increase

There was a 68.75% increase in disability-selective abortions for ‘non-fatal disabilities’ that took place under Ground E of the 2020 Northern Ireland Abortion Regulations with 27 babies with ‘non-fatal disabilities’ being aborted under round E, up from 16 for the year ending 31 March 2022.

Under Ground E of the regulations babies with Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot can be aborted right through to birth. The gestations at which these Ground E abortions took place are not published in the statistics.

Increase in abortion for children under 18

The figures also show an 11.11% increase in abortions for children under 18 years old. The number of abortions rose from 54 for the year ended 31 March 2022 to 60 in the following year. This represents a 30.43% increase from the year ending 31 March 2021, when there were 46 abortions where a child was under 18 years old.

Abortions across regional trusts

The Belfast Trust performed the most abortions, carrying out 667 abortions, marking an increase of 101 (17.84%) from the year ending 31 March 2022.

There was a 171.43% increase in abortions performed by the Western Trust compared to the year ending 31 March 2022.

The Northern Trust performed 572 abortions, representing an increase of 153 (36.52%) from the year ending 31 March 2022. The South Eastern Trust performed 438 abortions, an increase of 55 (14.36%) from the year ending 31 March 2022 and the Southern Trust performed 415 abortions, representing an increase of 56 lives lost to abortion (15.60%) compared to the year ending 31 March 2022.

Many more lives lost to abortion since law change

English, Welsh, and Scottish MPs in Westminster voted in July 2019 to impose an extreme abortion regime on Northern Ireland. No MPs representing a Northern Ireland constituency voted in support of imposing the new regime on Northern Ireland.

The figures represent a very large increase compared to the number of abortions that were taking place in England and Wales for Northern Ireland residents prior to abortion being imposed on Northern Ireland, along with the small number of abortions that took place in Northern Ireland.

This demonstrates that the introduction of an extreme abortion regime to Northern Ireland has likely resulted in the lives of many more babies from Northern Ireland being lost to abortion.

In 2018, 1,053 abortions for Northern Ireland residents were carried out in England and Wales, and 1,014 in 2019. For the year ending 31 March 2018, 12 abortions took place in Northern Ireland and 8 for the year ending 31 March 2019.

100,000 alive today as a result of Northern Ireland’s previous pro-life laws

Prior to this extreme abortion regime being imposed on Northern Ireland, there were strong protections for the unborn, with abortion limited to situations when a mother’s life was in danger.

As a result of the previous pro-life laws that were in place in Northern Ireland, in January 2017 it was estimated that 100,000 people were alive in Northern Ireland who would not have been if abortion were available as it was in the rest of the UK under the 1967 Abortion Act.

An estimated one in ten people under 50 were alive because of Northern Ireland’s distinctive abortion laws. The Northern Ireland group, Both Lives Matter, who commissioned an economist to conduct this analysis said close to 3,000 people were “being born each year who might not otherwise be. That’s equivalent to around 100 school classes every year”.

The 100,000 figure was confirmed by the Advertising Standards Authority in 2017.

Prior to the extreme abortion law being imposed on Northern Ireland, polling from ComRes showed a strong majority of women in Northern Ireland rejected interference from Westminster on this sensitive issue with two-thirds agreeing that this was a decision for Northern Ireland. The strongest support among age groups surveyed came from the youngest age group, 18-34 year olds, with 70% agreeing that they did not want abortion law imposed on Northern Ireland from Westminster.

Protecting babies with disabilities

Before the new abortion regime was imposed on Northern Ireland, disability-selective abortion for conditions such as Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot was not permitted and there was a culture of welcoming and supporting people with these disabilities rather than eliminating them.

This was reflected directly in 2016 figures from the Department of Health in Northern Ireland, which show that while there were 52 children born with Down’s syndrome in Northern Ireland, in the same year only 1 child from Northern Ireland with Down’s syndrome was aborted in England and Wales.

Prior to the extreme abortion regime being imposed, Northern Ireland was recognised as a society that truly valued people with disabilities as equally human, rather than one who claims to have moved on from outdated attitudes towards disabilities but at the same time routinely singles out babies with these disabilities for abortion.

At the time, Lord Shinkwin, who himself has a disability, said “Northern Ireland is the safest place in our United Kingdom to be diagnosed with a disability before birth”.

The extreme abortion regime imposed on Northern Ireland included a provision that effectively legalised abortion up to birth for babies with disabilities including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot.

Strong support for change

Polling shows large majorities of women in the UK support a number of changes to abortion laws that would have a positive impact on lowering the number of abortions. The polling shows that 70% of women want the current time limit on abortion to be lowered and 91% of women want a ban on sex-selective abortion.

Last week Right To Life UK launched a major general election campaign – the Vote For Both Lives campaign – a large-scale initiative that they are running throughout the country in the lead-up to election day on 4 July.

The Both Lives Pledge outlines three policy changes that are designed to increase protection for babies in the womb and stop pregnancy discrimination for women – policies that will save lives by protecting and supporting both mother and child.

Since the campaign’s launch, over 200 MP candidates have signed the Both Lives Pledge.

Constituents are being encouraged to visit www.righttolife.org.uk/bothlives where it takes 30 seconds to ask their MP candidates to sign the Both Lives Pledge.

Spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson, said 

“It is a great tragedy that 2,168 lives were lost to abortion in Northern Ireland for the year ended 31 March 2023. Every one of these abortions represents a failure of our society to protect the lives of babies in the womb and a failure to offer full support to women with unplanned pregnancies. 

“The figures represent a very large increase compared to the number of abortions that were taking place in England and Wales for Northern Ireland residents prior to abortion being imposed on Northern Ireland, along with the small number of abortions that took place in Northern Ireland. This demonstrates that the introduction of an extreme abortion regime to Northern Ireland has likely resulted in the lives of many more babies from Northern Ireland being lost to abortion.

“Figures released in 2017 showed that 100,000 people were alive in Northern Ireland because of their strong pro-life laws, laws that sadly no longer exist.

“Ahead of the General Election, we are calling on people around the country to visit www.righttolife.org.uk/bothlives where it takes 30 seconds to ask their MP candidates to sign the Both Lives Pledge.

“The Both Lives Pledge outlines three policy changes that are designed to increase protection for babies in the womb and stop pregnancy discrimination for women. These are policies that will save lives by protecting and supporting both mother and child.”

Robinson concluded,

“Polling shows these changes are backed by the public and this would ensure we are working together as a society to reduce the tragic number of lives that are lost to abortion each year.”

Categories: Northern Ireland