Among the news flashes we missed in the name of patriotism this week was the British Department of Health's release of the country's abortion statistics for 2005. Among the more distressing statistics was the number of Irish women who traveled to England and Wales to get abortions: 5,585, or an average of 15 a day.
The number represents a small percentage of the annual total of 186,400 U.K. abortions, but it's still pretty grim to think of the thousands of women forced to cross the border to terminate a pregnancy. And because department records only reflect the number of abortions performed on women who list Irish home addresses, rather than the U.K. addresses of friends or family members, the true tally may be higher.
Activists on both sides of the abortion debate sought to frame the statistic; choice advocates argued that Ireland needs to legalize abortion, while antiabortion voices noted that the number of Irish women seeking abortions in the U.K. is on the decline (it was 6,217 in 2004), so there's no need to make it legal back home. (Yes, yes, perfectly logical.) We're with Alliance for Choice spokeswoman Sian Muldowney, who sounded a little weary when she set out Ireland's reproductive-health to-do list: "Ireland needs to face up to its responsibility to Irish men and women to provide a comprehensive sex education strategy, a national sexual health services strategy and safe and legal abortion in Ireland."
In totally unrelated news, Reuters reports that the pope is traveling to Spain this weekend "to glorify traditional family values."