FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Data shows that while Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man work towards abortion law reform, many are still forced to travel for healthcare
The 2017 abortion statistics published by the Department of Health today show a 5% decline in the number of women travelling to England from the Republic of Ireland, a 25% increase in those travelling from Northern Ireland, and a 4.5% decrease in those travelling from the Isle of Man to access safe, legal abortions.
At the same time, for the ninth year in a row, Abortion Support Network(ASN) has seen a steep increase in calls from all three of these countries, with a 24% increase in calls from Ireland, a 10% increase in calls from Northern Ireland (despite new free provision in England as of <date in 2017>), and a 25% increase in calls from the Isle of Man. This is a 21% increase overall, and these numbers – each of which is a real pregnant person forced to ask strangers in another country for financial help – tell the true story of what happens when countries enforce draconian abortion laws.
Making abortion against the law never stops abortion. It makes abortion inconvenient for those with financial and other supports, and catastrophically impossible for those who are marginalised, at risk, or poor. Women and pregnant people who can travel, do. Those who can’t are forced to continue unwanted pregnancies, opt to take safe but illegal early medical abortion pills (which is what we believe accounts for the reduction in travellers from Ireland and the Isle of Man), or, fearful of criminal prosecution if caught taking pills, do more dangerous things to attempt to self-abort.
We know that many of our clients opt for a less-expensive, albeit illegal, early medical abortion at home rather than incur the increased expense, distress and hardship which leaving your home country for medical care causes. We have also heard from an increased number of exceptionally vulnerable clients, who would not have had any hope of accessing care without enormous amounts of financial and logistical support.
These statistics are released as abortion has been in the news for a number of reasons, including:
- The UK Supreme court finding (TODAY) that Northern Ireland’s abortion law is in breach of international human rights law;
- Emergency debates in the UK House of Commons around decriminalising abortion in Northern Ireland and the continued coalition between the DUP and the conservative party;
- Ireland voting to repeal the 8th Amendment, which paves the way for Ireland to legislate for legal abortion. Until that happens, those in Ireland still need to travel to access care and even when it is implemented, at least 600 will still need to travel.
- The Isle of Man’s 2018 Abortion Law Reform Bill winding its way through the legislative process.
Abortion Support Network Founder Mara Clarke, said:
“Abortion Support Network is a tiny charity helping those people forced to travel to England to access abortion.
The Department of Health statistics have been released a time when abortion has been in the news for months due to advances in legislation and a softening in public opinion on abortion in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man.
While we welcome all of these advances, we are still receiving an unprecedented number of calls from people who need our help. In fact, in the last two weeks we have had an increased number of clients needing large grants, resulting in our giving more than £10,000 in grants to help thirteen clients.
We are very hopeful that recent political and legislative developments will lead to law reform that enables everyone who needs an abortion to get one safely, legally, at low or no cost, in the country they live in. However, as of this minute nothing has changed for those who need abortions RIGHT NOW, and Abortion Support Network is doing our best to help.
Also, while the DoH statistics tell us how many people gave an Irish, Northern Irish or Isle of Man address at a UK family planning clinic, ASN knows that official numbers do not convey the entire story. These numbers do not count those travel to other countries for abortion care, and the thousands who are obtaining early medical abortion pills online.
These numbers do not capture the women who cannot travel – women who need, but cannot obtain, passports or visas needed to travel; women who cannot escape from violent partners; women who do not have someone who can provide childcare from 5 am until late at night; and women who do not have the £400 to £2,000 it costs to travel to England and pay privately for an abortion and who don’t know that ASN exists and can help them. They also do not contain those who, like the young teen who travelled over recently, arrive in England beyond the 24 week time limit for abortions and must continue their pregnancies.
In a time of #MeToo and #TimesUp and #Repealthe8th and now #NowforNI and #TrustAllWomen we very much hope that things change in such a way that Abortion Support Network is someday able to report a decrease in the number of people who contact us. However until that day, we will still be here for those who need us.”
These are some examples of the people who contacted us in 2017:
“I have four children including a baby and I am pregnant again. I didn’t tell the father because he is abusive and if I tell him about this pregnancy he will not let me have an abortion and will force me to stay with him.”
“I am living in Direct Provision and only get E20 per week to live on. I cannot tell anyone about this pregnancy and also need a Visa to travel. Please can you help me?”
“My daughter is 16 and just found out she is pregnant. She has asked for help getting an abortion and I am a mother lost on how to help her. I don’t know where to start.”
“Honestly, last week I was almost thinking of killing myself if I couldn’t get the money together.”
“I’m urgently seeking an abortion I have recently just found out I’m pregnant. I am 24 and I am currently unemployed and a single mum, I have a serious history of mental health issues. I cannot in my wildest dreams afford to travel to the UK for treatment.”
“I’m living in Belfast I don’t have travel money so was hoping you might be able to help me. I’d be very grateful for any help at all if possible. I am so relieved that the procedure will be free otherwise I would be so stuck I would be having a baby and I need to concentrate on taking care of the kids I have.”
For enquiries please contact:
Mara Clarke, Director, Abortion Support Network
07913 353 530
Notes for Editors
- Official numbers of women travelling for abortion
For the third 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 the Republic of Ireland and the Isle of Man. The numbers for NI have increased due to the provision of reimbursed costs for NI women as of <date> in 2017.
2015 Total 4,389
Irish Republic 3,451
Northern Ireland 833
Isle of Man 105
2016 Total 4,077
Irish Republic 3,265
Northern Ireland 724
Isle of Man 88
2017 Total 4,095
Irish Republic 3,092
Northern Ireland 919
Isle of Man 84
The full report and data tables can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/abortion-statistics-for-england-and-wales-2017
- Numbers of women contacting Abortion Support Network
2015 Total 648
Irish Republic 430
Northern Ireland 139
Isle of Man 2
2016 Total 801
Irish Republic 524
Northern Ireland 166
Isle of Man 12
2017 Total 1009
Irish Republic 685
Northern Ireland 184
Isle of Man 16
- The cost of abortion. Women who travel from Ireland to England for an abortion have to pay for their travel and often that of a partner, friend or family member accompanying them (last minute air fares and travel to and from the clinic), can need to pay for accommodation to stay overnight, and must pay for the procedure as a private patient. The cost of the procedure at a clinic in England ranges between £330 to £1634, plus consultation fee of £45 to £100, 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, lose income due to time off work, pay for travel documents, and other costs.
- What free abortions in Northern Ireland means for ASN:
- What the vote to Repeal the 8th Amendment means for ASN: https://www.asn.org.uk/its-a-yes-faq/
For enquiries please contact:
Notes for Editors
About Abortion Support Network
Abortion Support Network (ASN) is a volunteer-driven charity that provides financial assistance, accommodation and confidential, non-judgemental information 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.