TWELVE Irish women are crossing the Irish Sea every day to get abortions in Britain, official statistics have revealed.
Figures from Britain’s Department of Health show that Irish women make up for the vast majority of women who came to Britain for terminations.
They accounted for almost 4,500 abortions in 2013, more than 80 per cent of the total number performed here on women not resident in England or Wales.
Some 3,679 women travelled from the Irish Republic and 802 made the journey from the North of Ireland.
While campaigners in the Republic described the news as an “indictment” of the State, they said the figures were an underestimation of the true number of women fleeing Ireland to receive abortions.
The Irish Family Planning Association claimed some women who come here do not provide their Irish address while others go further afield than Britain for terminations.
Niall Behan, the charity’s CEO, said women were coming forward “every day” because they felt abandoned by the Irish health care system.
“Since 1980, over 158,252 women have had to make the journey to the UK to access abortion,” he added.
“These women are not criminals but the law treats them as such because they are seeking a service that is illegal in almost every circumstance in Ireland.”
Meanwhile, the London-based Abortion Support Network said the figures did not account for the “hundreds” of Irish women buying abortion pills over the internet.
The Life Institute welcomed the figures, which showed an eight per cent decrease in women travelling from the Republic since 2012 and a 45 per cent decrease since the numbers peaked at 6,673 in 2001.
"This is good news: the decrease is significant and, while every abortion is a tragedy, it is important that women continue to realise that there were always better options than abortion," said spokeswoman Niamh Uí Bhriain.
She claimed that the decrease was as a result of improved care for expectant mothers in crisis and greater awareness of “the humanity of unborn children”.
The new figures are the first to be released following the passing of controversial abortion laws in Ireland last year, which did not legalise terminations in cases where babies have abnormalities that will kill them at birth.
But the figures do not take into account the impact of the law, which came into effect on January 1 this year.
Abortion is also heavily restricted in the North of Ireland.
Of the women who travelled to Britain from the Republic for abortions in 2013, more than 100 were children under the age of 18, including 21 under-16s.
There were also more than 100 Irish women who terminated pregnancies at later than 20 weeks, while one-in-six had received an abortion before.
The figures also include a detailed breakdown of where in Ireland the women came from for their abortions.
Dubliners accounted for 1,164 abortions, far outstripping any other county, while at the other end of the scale just nine women from Leitrim received a termination here last year.