More than two Galway women a week are travelling to UK clinics to end their pregnancies.
Health Minister Simon Harris revealed that 115 women giving Galway addresses travelled across the water to have an abortion.
In an impassioned speech in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment, the Minister said at least 170,000 Irish women have travelled to the UK for a termination since the law was introduced in 1983 in a constitutional referendum, effectively banning abortion by giving equal standing to the rights of the mother and the child.
“Each crisis pregnancy is different,” he said. “And each involves a real woman facing a very difficult, and very personal decision.”
Galway Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton, who sat on the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment, said she had changed her views on abortion after listening to the expert evidence.
The committee voted last month to repeal the legislation and recommended another referendum.
“The abortion pill is currently sought and used in Ireland without medical supervision. Incorrect administration of the drug can lead to perforation of the uterus and this has resulted in women dying,” she stated.
“You cannot turn off the internet nor expect the Gardaí to be waiting at our airports for women carrying abortion pills. There is no practical way to stop the use of abortion pills in Ireland. That horse has bolted.
“We can either close our eyes to this, as usual, or actually deal with the dangers of unsupervised access to abortion pills. I choose the latter.
“It is not a comfortable decision for me but one that is necessary to protect the lives of women.
“It is my decision to recommend the regulation of the abortion pill in Ireland. Such regulation to be in accordance with best medical practice, which is presently up to 12 weeks. Regulation of the abortion pill should be provided by legislation and with the approval of the Health Products Regulatory Authority.”
Minister Harris told the Dáil that he expects to return to government with a series of proposals in the coming weeks, aiming to deliver a referendum by the end of May or early June.
The number of women travelling from the Republic to Britain for an abortion is at its lowest levels since 1980.
The HSE Crisis Pregnancy Agency said the decline is due to women accessing abortion pills.
A 2016 report shows that 1,642 abortion pill packages were sent to Ireland in the three-year period 2010 to 2012. by a single provider.