Behind every statistic about human life there lies a human story, sometimes a great drama, and occasionally a bitter tragedy. As a general rule statistics are cold matter to have to deal with, and anyone who is using statistical information to deepen their understanding of issues such as childbirth and abortion would need to be aware of the great pressures that can weigh down upon a woman when she is faced with a pregnancy.
For example, a single abortion will only receive one mark on a statistical table, yet the same abortion could have occasioned a huge deal of anguish for the woman involved, as well as marking the death of her precious baby.
As a counsellor who has been working for over thirty years with Irish women in crisis pregnancies wrote: ‘I don’t think any woman makes the decision to have an abortion lightly, and it is regrettable that even one woman feels she has no choice but to have an abortion.’
In this article we will look at two sets of statistics from the year 2010 regarding the known outcome of pregnancies in Ireland. Statistics about births are available from the Irish government’s Central Statistics Office, while statistics on abortions come mainly from the British Department of Health. There are also some abortion statistics from the Netherlands, but the accuracy of these statistics is not guaranteed by the Dutch government.
Summary of statistical findings for 2010
Among pregnant women and girls who are resident in the Republic of Ireland, 6% opt for abortion, while 94% choose to give birth.
Circumstances of the pregnancy
Outcome of known pregnancies
|Where the couples are married →||Less than 2% of their pregnancies end in abortion
|Where women are not in an on-going relationship with a man →
|11% of their pregnancies end in abortion
|Where couples are unmarried but are in an on-going relationship →||Just less than 13% of their pregnancies end in abortion
|Among teenagers in general →||20% of their pregnancies end in abortion
|Where the mothers are adult teenagers →||17% of their pregnancies end in abortion
|Where the mothers are minors →
|25% of their pregnancies end in abortion
Overall statistics for abortions
Based on the available statistics the following can be said:
- In 2010 there were 4,402 abortions carried out in England and Wales on women and girls from the Republic of Ireland. This is the ninth consecutive year that the numbers have declined. They had reached a peak of 6,673 in 2001.
- An Irish government agency has stated that it is aware of 31 Irish women going to the Netherlands for abortions in 2010. This figure is preliminary, but the final figure is unlikely to be much different.
Information from England and Wales
There is considerable background information available concerning those Irish residents who had travelled to England and Wales to obtain abortions. Focusing our attention now on this group of persons, we can say that:
- Of the 4,402 abortions carried out in 2010, 3,430 clients were described as ‘single’. Of this number, 1,319 had no partner, while 1,966 did have a partner. There was no information on this question from the remaining 145 ‘single’ clients.
- In addition, 598 clients were married; 67 were separated; 16 were divorced, and 13 were widowed. In a further 278 cases no information on marital status was available.
Marital status of Irish residents having abortions in England & Wales during the year 2010
Breakdown of single clients
Having a partner 45%
Not having a partner 30%
Not classified 3%
Separated or divorced
or widowed 2%
Not classified 6%
- Of the 4,402 abortions carried out in 2010, 2,318 were done on women in their 20s. Another 1,354 were done on women in their 30s. There were 271 abortions carried out on women aged 40 or older. 303 abortions were done on adults between the ages of 18 and 20; and 156 were carried out on minors (those under 18 years). 41 of those minors were under the age of 16 (they were aged 15 years or even younger).
Age ranges of Irish residents having abortions in England & Wales during the year 2010
|Under 16 years old||
Just less than 1%
|All persons under 18 years||
Just less than 4%
|Persons aged 18 and 19 years||
|Persons in their 20s||
|Persons in their 30s||
|Persons in their 40s||
- The total number of births registered in the Republic of Ireland in 2010 was 73,724. When we consider that the number of known abortions on Irish women that year was 4,433 (4,402 done in England and Wales, plus around 31 done in the Netherlands), this would suggest that somewhere near 6% of all known pregnancies are ending in abortions.
The impact of lifestyle choices
The parents of unborn children can be divided into three groups:
(a) those who are committed to each other for the long term (in general, this would show itself by the fact that the couple are in a marriage relationship);
(b) those who are living with each other but who have not made a life-long commitment to each other, and;
(c) those whose relationships are only casual encounters, which incidentally give rise to the conception of a baby.
Here is what the available statistics are saying about the impact of these lifestyle choices upon the issue of abortion:
- Of the 73,724 births in Ireland in 2010, the parents of 48,864 babies were married – that’s 66% of the total number of births. That same year there were 598 abortions to married women. This would suggest that of all known pregnancies in married women, less than 2% ended in abortion.
- In a further 13,498 births, the mothers, though not married, were living at the same address as the baby’s father (that’s 18% of the total number of births). At the same time there were 1,966 abortions done on ‘single’ women who said that they had a partner. This would suggest that where unmarried women are in an on-going relationship of some kind with a man, just less than 13% of their known pregnancies ended in abortion.
- In 2010 there were 11,362 births to women who said that they had no husband or partner. That same year there were 1,319 abortions to ‘single’ women who said that they had no partner, along with another 96 abortions to women who had left a relationship. This would suggest that where women are not in an on-going relationship with a man, 11% of their known pregnancies are ending in abortions.
- Taken together, these findings indicate that the only kind of man who influences a pregnant woman not to opt for an abortion is the one who has made a life-long commitment to her.
Abortions and births to teenagers
- Regarding minors (those under 18 years of age): there were 156 abortions carried out on them in 2010. In that same year there were 483 births to minors. This would suggest that there were around 639 pregnancies to minors in Ireland in 2010, of which just under 25% ended in abortion.
- Regarding adult teenagers (those over 18 years but under 20 years): there were 1,536 births to them in 2010, and 303 abortions. This would suggest that just less than 17% of their known pregnancies ended in abortion.
- Putting together this information on births and abortions among teenagers in general, we can estimate that around 2,478 pregnancies occurred to teenagers in Ireland in 2010. Of that number, just under 20% ended in abortion.
All of these statistics are based on examining pregnancies over whose outcome the mother had control.
I have not included ectopic pregnancies or pregnancies that ended in miscarriages either before or after implantation, since the mothers had no say in how those pregnancies came to an end.
Also excluded are very early pregnancies that could have been interrupted by family planning devices, drugs, implants or injections, because often the mother would not have been aware of how they could work to cause the death of a newly conceived child.
Comments on the statistics
1) 94% of pregnant women in Ireland bring their babies to birth. 6% opt for an abortion. However, from the time that a man makes a life-long commitment to a woman, the risk that she would choose an abortion falls to less than 2%.
2) Where a man is in an on-going relationship with a woman but has failed to commit to her for the long-term, this gives no protection against the likelihood that she would opt for an abortion. One possible explanation for this would lie in the fact that a pregnancy signals the arrival of a child who will need up to twenty years of care and nurturing. If a woman believes that she cannot rely on her partner to support her throughout those twenty years, she could easily become fearful about her capacity to raise her child on her own. Some such women might be tempted to think that their difficulties would be resolved by having an abortion.
3) Among unmarried women who have a partner, 13% of their known pregnancies end in abortions. Among women who have no husband or partner the percentage is a bit less than this, at 11%. This latter figure may be lower than the real figure on the ground, and in practice there may be no significant difference between the two categories.
4) The available statistics would also suggest that the numbers of abortions on Irish women have been falling since the early 2000s. If such information is a true reflection of the real situation on the ground, it is a very welcome development.
If you know someone who might be upset by a pregnancy, help is available from the following organizations:
LIFE Pregnancy Care
Text: 086-663 8253
Callsave: 1850-281 281
Ask Majella Life and Education Centre
Tel: 1890-252 639 or 1890-252 640
Tel: 1850-622 626
If someone is upset after an abortion, help is available from any of the organizations listed here, and also from:
Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries
Contact: Bernadette Goulding
Tel: 087-859 2877
A booklet entitled ‘About the child before birth’ is available free from the author of this article. For your copy, please send your name and address with a 55c stamp to: David Logan, c/o Corner House, Mohill Town, County Leitrim.
LifeNews Note: David Logan lives in north western Ireland and works as an administrator in a family resource centre. In 2010 he published a book ‘Christian Responses to Abortion’ and this year he issued a booklet ‘About the Child Before Birth’.