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Abortion numbers halve in Northern Ireland as doctors fear prison

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i135 (Published 08 January 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i135
  1. Clare Dyer
  1. 1BMJ

The number of NHS pregnancy terminations in Northern Ireland has more than halved in a year, as official draft guidelines issued in 2013 have had a chilling effect on doctors in a province where the abortion law is among the strictest in Europe.

“We don’t know whether giving advice specifically about abortion is legal or illegal,” John O’Kelly, Northern Ireland chair for the Royal College of General Practitioners, told The BMJ.

Since 1970 an estimated 60 000 women have travelled for an abortion to England, where the more liberal 1967 Abortion Act applies. But Northern Ireland residents are not eligible for free NHS abortions in England, and the costs, including flights and accommodation where necessary, range from £400 to £2000 (€2695; $2920). As a result, growing numbers of women faced with unwanted pregnancies are turning to the internet to …

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