The latest abortion statistics published by the Department of Health today show a marginal 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, 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 2010, Abortion Support Network received a total of 89 calls from women seeking support in order to access a safe and legal abortion in Britain and, so far this year, we have already received 70 calls, a significant increase. In addition, we are aware that a growing number of women access the procedure in other EU member states such as Belgium and the Netherlands, whilst others seek a medical abortion online.
‘In the 18 months since Abortion Support Network was set up, we have had a significant increase in the numbers of women calling us for help. These women are usually desperate, with no-one to turn to. Today’s Department of Health statistics, which show a very slight drop in the number of women travelling to England from Ireland and Northern Ireland to access a safe and legal abortion, do not reveal the full picture of women’s experiences. Severe abortion restrictions across the island continue to force many women to travel to England or elsewhere to access one of the most commonly performed medical procedures in the world. The current economic crisis and continued stigma further exacerbate the situation of women facing an unplanned pregnancy’ said Mara Clarke, Abortion Support Network Director.
The cost of an abortion varies greatly depending on gestation, ranging from £350 to £1,775. Women who travel from Ireland or Northern Ireland bear the total financial cost of the procedure, which is available to women in Britain on the NHS. This is especially problematic for women without the necessary funds, because they experience further delays and are forced to access a later abortion at higher financial and potentially additional health costs.
These are some examples of the women who have called us:
A 24 year old woman who was 6 weeks pregnant. She was a single parent with a young baby and found out she was pregnant whilst still on maternity leave from her part-time job. The father was not aware of the pregnancy. She couldn’t afford flights to England and called Abortion Support Network. We were able to pay for her flights.
A woman who was 19 weeks pregnant with 3 children, including one under the age of one. Initially she looked into trying to self-abort as felt could not afford to pay for a termination. She was in a desperate state when she called Abortion Support Network. She knew she was pregnant at 10 weeks but could not book an abortion because she had no funds. After saving for 8 weeks, she managed to put aside 600 Euros. She was worried about her own health but ‘terrified’ to go near a hospital in case they would force her to have the baby. Abortion Support Network agreed to pay for her flights and the remainder of her clinic fee.
A 32 year old woman who already had a 9 month old baby and didn’t realise she was pregnant until she was 20 weeks gone. She had been able to manage a 1,000 Euro loan from her sister for the procedure but could not afford flights and accommodation. Abortion Support Network helped her with both.
For more information about our work, visit: https://www.asn.org.uk/about/faqs/
To arrange an interview, please call Anne Quesney, Abortion Support Network spokesperson on +44 (0)7909 974 101
Notes for the editor
1. Abortions performed for women who are not resident in England and Wales, 2010
In 2010, 6,535 abortions were performed for women who are not resident in England and Wales. By country of residence:
- Northern Ireland 1,101 (16.8%)
- Scotland 254 (3.9%)
- Isle of Man 128 (2.0%)
- Jersey 9 (0.1%)
- Guernsey 9 (0.1%)
- Irish Republic 4,402 (67.4%)
- Cyprus 7 (0.1%)
- Denmark 13 (0.2%)
- France 57 (0.9%)
- Germany 12 (0.2%)
- Gibraltar 6 (0.1%)
- Ionian Islands 6 (0.1%)
- Italy 145 (2.2%)
- Malta 51 (0.8%)
- Norway 6 (0.1%)
- Poland 29 (0.4%)
- Portugal 14 (0.2%)
- Romania 5 (0.1%)
- Spain 12 (0.2%)
- Other 32 (0.5%)
Rest of the world
- Australia 11 (0.2%)
- Bahrain 12 (0.2%)
- Egypt 5 (0.1%)
- Kuwait 5 (0.1%)
- Qatar 13 (0.2%)
- Saudia Arabia 10 (0.2%)
- UAE 113 (1.7%)
- USA 11 (0.2%)
- Other 57 (0.9%)
Numbers of abortions performed for women resident in Ireland
Northern Ireland: 1173 (2008), 1123 (2009), 1101 (2010)
Republic of Ireland: 4600 (2008), 4422 (2009), 4402 (2010)
TOTAL: 5773 (2008), 5545 (2009), 5503 (2010)
0.7% decrease between 2009 and 2010 in the number of abortions performed for women resident in Ireland, compared to a 3.9% decrease between 2008 and 2009.
2. Abortion Support Network is an entirely volunteer-run organisation that was established in October 2009 to provide accommodation and financial assistance to women forced to travel from Ireland and Northern Ireland in order to have a safe legal abortion.
3. Abortion Support Network is an all-volunteer organisation that provides information, accommodation and financial assistance to women who are forced to travel to England to access a safe and legal abortion. The information and support we offer is strictly confidential and non-judgemental. Our volunteers provide a meal and a safe place to sleep for women travelling to London for abortions. We also fundraise to provide grants to help towards the cost of having the procedure at a clinic in England. We are the only organisation known to be providing practical support of this kind. For more information or to support our work visit www.abortionsupport.org.uk
4. In Northern Ireland (despite being part of the UK), and the Republic of Ireland, abortion is illegal except under extremely limited circumstances and it is virtually impossible for women to access an abortion legally. In both countries, however, women can legally travel abroad for an abortion. Further information about abortion law in Ireland is available from:
5. In 2010, a total of 5,503 abortions were performed in England and Wales on women resident in Ireland and Northern Ireland (Department of Health, 2011). The actual number of women having abortions abroad is likely to be higher, with additional women giving a false address or travelling to Belgium or The Netherlands for an abortion.
6. 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 £350 to £1,775, depending on the stage of their pregnancy. Some women must also pay the costs of childcare for children back home, and take time off work.
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