The UK Department of Health published on Thursday July 11th figures that showed that nearly 4000 Irish women went to England or Wales to have an abortion in 2012.

The Irish Times reports that the UK Department of Health’s figures accounted for 3,982 women who travelled to England or Wales to have an abortion last year.

Of the total, 3,093 specified which Irish county they came from. That figure included 40 percent from Dublin, and 10 percent from Cork.

2700, the majority of the Irish women, were between three and nine weeks pregnant, while 101 were more than 20 weeks pregnant. Almost 500 were 13 to 19 weeks pregnant, and close to 700 were 10 to 12 weeks pregnant.

Of the Irish women, the largest age group was between 20 and 24 years of age (1,082 women). 964 were in the 25-29 age bracket. 20 percent was aged 30-34, almost 550 women were aged 35-39, and 263 were 40 and over.

347 teenagers traveled abroad to the UK from Ireland: 32 were under 16 years old, 92 were 16 or 17, and 223 were 18 or 19 years old.

Irish women comprised the majority of non-UK resident who went to England or Wales for an abortion at 70 percent.

While 2012’s figures appear large, they are a decrease from 2011. In 2011, 4,149 women travelled to England or Wales, while the number of under-18s was 148.

The Irish Times pointed out that not all women who travel from the Republic of Ireland to the UK for an abortion provide their Irish address in hopes of confidentiality.

Niall Behan, chief executive for the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA), said  the 2012 figures “mask the hardship experienced by women who are denied access to abortion services in Ireland.”

“The ban on lawful abortion services in Ireland does not deter women from having abortions; it places the burden of accessing this necessary health service on women,” said Behan.

“In the last ten years the IFPA has received over 40,000 calls to our national helpline and provided non-directive counselling to more than 12,000 women. Every day we hear from women who have to leave this country to access health services that should be available in Ireland.”

Behan said there were a number of reasons for Irish women to opt for abortion, including financial worries; concern about the well-being of other children; diagnosis of serious foetal abnormality; pre-existing health problems, including mental health problems, and relationship issues.

The 2012 statistics of Irish women traveling to the UK to get abortions coincides with the abortion debate taking place currently in the Dail.

“No one can be under any illusion that enacting the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill fulfils the state’s responsibility to women,” Behan said.

As the 2012 statistics emerge, the Irish Post reports on the harrowing situations single mothers or couples face in the aftermath of having to travel abroad for an abortion.

While some bring the remains of their unborn child back home to Ireland on the ferry on in the trunk of their car, others have to endure a longer wait as the ashes of the aborted fetus are returned in Ireland by mail.