Northern Ireland abortions under-reported by thousands

Northern Ireland has seen thousands more abortions than previously reported since the law was liberalised in 2020.

New statistics from the Department of Health revealed that 2,168 abortions were performed in 2022/23, while also correcting figures for previous years. In 2020/21 it originally reported 150 abortions, but has now said the true figure was 1,574. The following year it reported 122 abortions, but this has been amended to 1,755.

Previously, the Department only reported abortions from hospital admissions. But since the majority of abortions since 2020 have involved women taking pills in an outpatient setting, the Department updated its methodology in line with accurate data provided through Assembly questions.

Home abortions

The vast majority of abortions during each year were performed prior to 10 weeks, the limit at which women can take an abortion pill at home.

In 2022/23, abortions under 10 weeks’ gestation accounted for 92.6 per cent of abortions.

And 27 babies deemed to be “seriously disabled” were also aborted during that period. Children with conditions such as Down’s syndrome, cleft palate and club foot are allowed to be aborted after the 24-week limit that applies in most other cases.


Right to Life UK spokeswoman Catherine Robinson called the figures a “great tragedy”, saying each abortion “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”.

She highlighted a 2017 estimate that 100,000 people were alive in Northern Ireland who would not have been born in the rest of the UK because of the Province’s pro-life laws that “sadly no longer exist”.

In 2019, Westminster voted to force a liberal abortion regime on Northern Ireland which became law the following year. In 2022, the Secretary of State commissioned an expansion of abortion services across the Province.

Censorship zones

Last September, Northern Ireland implemented nationwide censorship zones banning prayer and offers of help to pregnant women outside abortion clinics.

All five Health and Social Care Trusts have zones criminalising anyone who hands out pro-life literature or speaks to anyone about abortion within a 100-250m radius of an abortion clinic or hospital.

In December 2022, the UK Supreme Court rejected the NI Attorney General’s concerns that such zones were inconsistent with the right to peaceful protest, and the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Act later came into law.

Also see:

Hand of baby and adult

Abortion figures continue to rise in England and Wales

MSPs back Scotland-wide abortion censorship zones

Thousands march for life in Dublin

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