Abortion Support Network
12 June 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Fewer women travelling from Ireland to get abortions? Look behind the statistics
Ireland’s abortion laws continue to harm women
The 2013 abortion statistics published by the Department of Health today show a reduction in the number of women from Ireland and Northern Ireland travelling to England to access a safe and legal abortion. While this may be the case, Abortion Support Network (ASN), which provides financial assistance, accommodation and confidential, non-judgemental information to women forced to travel to England to access an abortion, has experienced a steep increase in calls from women in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
In 2013, Abortion Support Network received a total of 446 calls from women seeking support in order to access a safe and legal abortion in Britain and we have heard from an additional 260 in 2014.
Abortion Support Network Director Mara Clarke said:
‘Abortion Support Network is an almost entirely volunteer run charity helping women forced to travel to England to access abortion. We speak to women directly and hear first-hand of the difficulties and distress they are forced to endure because they cannot access a safe legal abortion in their own country.
While some organisations and groups will undoubtedly greet the news of a reduction in numbers with positive fanfare, ASN knows that these numbers only tell part of the story. They do not include the women who come to England and give the address of a local friend or family member, the women who travel to other countries to access abortions, or the hundreds – if not thousands – of women who are obtaining early medical abortion pills online from www.womenonweb.org. These numbers also do not capture the women who cannot travel – women who need but cannot obtain passports or visas to travel, women who cannot escape from violent partners, and women who do not have the £400 to £2000 it costs to travel to England and pay privately for an abortion.
The number of women who are contacting Abortion Support Network because they are unable to afford the cost of an abortion, plus travel and other costs, such as childcare, has been increasing each year. Despite the fact that official statistics for the numbers of women travelling for abortion are slightly down, the continued increase in calls to Abortion Support Network is further proof that criminalising abortion does not end abortion but simply makes it more difficult for poor women and families to access. The continued economic crisis is making it even more of a struggle for women and families to keep their heads above water and Ireland’s severe abortion restrictions make it even harder for this group.
ASN’s volunteers and supporters think it’s appalling that, when faced with an unplanned pregnancy, women in Ireland with money can access a safe and legal abortion and women without money cannot. As long as there are women facing an unwanted pregnancy who are unable to afford the costs of travelling to England and paying privately for an abortion, ASN will continue to do our best to help them.’
These are some examples of the women and families who have contacted us:
“My partner and I found out that the baby we’re expecting is incompatible with life, the baby has a rare abnormality and will not survive outside the womb and because of backward Irish law we don’t know where to turn.”
“I’m a mother of 3 and am in absolute shock that I am pregnant – I never wanted any more kids. My relationship is not stabile enough to be having a new baby and financially I can’t afford it. I was totally against abortion but it is the only thing that I want to do. I am trying to get the money together to go if there is any help at all it would be appreciated or even if you know the best clinics or the cheapest ones.”
“Please help. I’ve tried everything to try to miscarry. I’ve been drinking excessively. I’ve tried throwing myself downstairs, and even tried to overdose. I can’t have this child. I don’t want it! I’m completely on my own. No one else knows and I’m at the end of my tether, I feel like I’m going to have a breakdown.”
“I’m a student and I’m approximately 18 weeks pregnant. I can’t financially and emotionally support a child so I’m planning on having an abortion. The problem is my partner and I have both been saving and scraping money together but we’re still short. I was enquiring as to whether we could get any assistance, be it monetary or just providing us with somewhere to stay when we get there.”
We thank these women and men for allowing us to share their stories.
For enquiries please contact:
Mara Clarke, Director, Abortion Support Network.
07913 353 530
Notes for Editors
1) Official numbers of women travelling for abortion
For the second year in a row, the Department of Health has reported that there has been a decrease in the number of abortions performed for women giving addresses in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The 2013 total is the lowest in any year since 1969.
2011 Total 5,156
Republic of Ireland 4,149
Northern Ireland 1,007
2012 Total 4,887
Northern Ireland 905
2013 Total 4,481
Northern Ireland 802
Irish Republic 3,679
The full report can be found here:
2) Numbers of women contacting Abortion Support Network
2011 Total 253
Northern Ireland 103
Irish Republic 140
Other Countries 10
2012 Total 363
Northern Ireland 125
Irish Republic 209
Other countries 29
2013 Total 466
Northern Ireland 143
Irish Republic 280
Other countries 43
2. The full study from the New England Journal of Medicine, clearly stipulates that there is no “increased risk of mental disorders after first-trimester induced abortion” and can be found here: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa0905882#t=articleTop
3. The cost of abortion. Women who travel from Ireland to England for an abortion have to pay for their travel and commonly that of a partner, friend or family member accompanying them (last minute air fares and travel to and from the clinic), often pay for accommodation to stay overnight, and must pay for the procedure as a private patient. The cost of the procedure alone ranges between £330 to £1,350, plus consultation fee of £60 to £80 depending on the stage of their pregnancy and what clinic they attend. Some women must also pay the costs of childcare for children back home, and take time off work.
4. About Abortion Support Network
Abortion Support Network (ASN) is a charity that provides financial assistance, confidential, non-judgemental information and accommodation in volunteer homes to women forced to travel from Ireland and Northern Ireland and pay privately for abortions in England. The cost ranges between £400 and £2000 depending on circumstance and stage of pregnancy. While other organisations campaign for much needed law reform, ASN is the only group on record providing women travelling for abortions with the thing they need most immediately: money.