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November eBulletin

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Welcome to your ASN eBulletin. ASN’s 2nd Anniversary Party was a rousing success; and ASN’s founder would like to say a few words about where we’ve been and where we’re going. Miss the party and want an annual report? Women we’ve helped in October. And Carnival Rights Belfast highlights the absurdity of the 150th birthday of the Offences Against the Persons Act. Read on!

2nd Anniversary Celebrations
Want an annual report?
And now, a word from our founder
Women we’ve helped
Carnival Rights Belfast
Gift Aid now on website

2nd Anniversary Celebrations
Thanks ever so much to those of you who donated, sent support and/or attended our event on the 26th of October to kick off ASN’s third year. For those of you who were unable to attend, you can view photos from the night taken by the fabulous Emma Campbell.

We were thrilled to see so many new faces at the event, and to have the chance to say hello to old friends. Cake was eaten (thanks, Louise!), copies of ASN’s 2011 Annual Report were snapped up and over £200 was raised between donation buckets and our 50/50 raffle.

ASN is exceptionally grateful to the women who motivated us with their speeches at the event. Alison Peters from Marie Stopes International spoke of the hardships faced by women who come to her clinic in Bristol. Our special guest Diane Abbott (Shadow Health Minister and MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington) inspired us with a speech about the importance of providing practical support for women in Ireland and N Ireland while she and others are fighting for law reform. We also received a message of support from Dawn Purvis, who spent years being the only member of the Northern Ireland Assembly to speak out in favour of a woman’s right to choose abortion. You can find out about the great work that Ms Abbott and Ms Purvis are doing by following them on Twitter at!/hackneyabbott and!/dawnpurvis respectively.

“Women from Ireland North and South experience the added anxiety of having to travel across the sea in order to exercise their right of choice.  Your organisation, team of volunteers and donors have helped make that journey a more supportive one.  All credit to you as you celebrate your 2nd Anniversary.” – Dawn Purvis

You’ve got Mail
Did you miss the festivities but want an annual report? You can download a copy here or email us your address and we will post you one. Donations toward postage appreciated but not required.

Looking forward, looking back – A few words from our founder
I had the opportunity to address people directly at the anniversary party and wanted to do the same for those of you unable to make it.

The first glimmer of ASN was seen at the bottom of a glass of red wine a few years back – the idea that an American-style abortion fund could work in England. I spoke to the widest range of people I could get to take my calls – the ifpa, nifpa, Marie Stopes International, bpas, the Calthorpe Clinic, Alliance for Choice, Ann Rossiter of IWASG and many more – to see if any group was providing this sort of support and whether or not women from Ireland and N Ireland still needed it. And then I started interviewing volunteers, and ASN became “we”.

It’s hard to believe that in just over 2 years we’ve grown from an idea in my head into an organisation with that has heard from hundreds of women, has had more than 30 volunteers, and is now a charity that MPs even consider speaking to. We tripled in size last year in terms of women helped and grants given, became a charity, and added on a Board of Trustees.

That’s a lot of change in a very short period of time, especially when you consider that every single one of us is juggling our work for ASN with our other responsibilities – families, partners, and in most cases, full time work. We are doing our best to continue as we began: as an organisation big enough to reach women in need and appeal to potential funders, and small enough to both enable us to be extremely flexible in helping the women who approach us; to be an organisation that can be run by volunteers who often have to make and take calls and emails between meetings or instead of lunch.

With the help of you – our wonderful supporters and volunteers – we can still say that we’ve never had to turn down a woman who could not access an abortion without our help. I want to thank each one of you for your support, for your trust in our organisation, for your compassion for women in need, and for your understanding as we navigate our rapid growth.

Here’s to another great year!

Mara Clarke, Founder

Women we’ve helped
In October, ASN heard from 24 women. We are immensely grateful to all of you who enable us to help women, the phone coordinators (Katie, Maddie, Sarah, Jane and Mara) who help these women navigate their way to a safe and legal abortion, to Women on Web for the amazing services they provide, and to the clinics and other groups involved for making it all possible.

Women we helped this month included:

A single mother who, not knowing she was pregnant, had several x-rays and was on a number of medications.

A woman who called us the morning of her teenage daughter’s appointment from the airport. The loan they were expecting had fallen through the night before and they were terrified they’d be turned away if they turned up short of money.

A student on limited budget and unable to cope or afford a child. When she went to the student financial aid centre, she was told that this was a “foreseeable expense” rather than an emergency, so they couldn’t help. As a result, she’s decided that when she gets back to Cork, she will be putting all her efforts into campaigning for a change in the law.

A woman who was early enough in pregnancy to be referred to Women on Web who was extremely pleased not to have to travel to obtain an abortion.

A lone parent who was seriously distressed about not being able to raise enough money to fund her abortion, who said that until she spoke to ASN, “This whole experience has made me feel like I’m being burned at the stake”. In the end, we awarded a smaller grant than we’d agreed to because she rang us the day before the procedure to say she’d raised an extra £50.

A couple who found out late in pregnancy that their child had catastrophic abnormalities. In addition, they could not believe that they would have to pay for the procedure themselves, especially as she had previously lived in England. They were only able to afford the procedure with a combination of a grant from us and a generous reduction in fees from the clinic.

A woman who had an abortion before and became pregnant again despite taking hormonal birth control. She has no money as she’s only just paid off the loan she took to pay for her first abortion. Upon hearing that we could help her, she had this to say:  “I’d like to get on a stage in front of people who are anti abortion. Even though it breaks my heart to do this it has to be a woman’s choice. It would be selfish for me to have another baby – I can barely afford the kids I have. The stories on the side of your website make me feel like I’m not alone. If I could jump through the phone and hug you, I would.”

A recently separated woman with several children, including one with serious health issues. We were able to provide funding and accommodation for the two nights she had stayed here. She had never left her children before.  “If I am not able to do this before I am 18 weeks and 6 days the cost doubles to over €1500, at the moment it is €700 which seems impossible.  I just cannot see any way to do this. I had no idea that women in Ireland had to go through this.”

Email from a woman:
i live in rep. Ireland I just found out im pregnant and at the worst possible time, i am only 18 and have no means to be able to have a baby, i Have just started a course. I feel so cheated me and my boyfriend made  a drunken mistake but i went and got the moring after pill immeditely. I duno what im going to do, I cannot afford nor provide for a child yet i cannot even afford an abortion. I feel sick thinking about it all feel like i have no choices due to a lack of money. I do not feel ready to be a parent and nor does he.

ASN thanks these women and men for sharing their stories with us, and for permitting us to share them with you.

Carnival Rights Belfast
Free to Choose (F2C) is a collaboration of activists who have come together to highlight the absurdity of the 1861 Offences Against the Persons Act being on the Statutes for 150 years. Their series of events is entitled the ‘Carnival for Sexual Rights and Freedom; Pro-Choice, Pro-Sexuality’. The group consists of representatives from Alliance for Choice, Belfast Feminist Network, the Rainbow Project, and Irish Congress of Trade Unions Youth Committee. Several events are happening around Belfast and Derry beginning 12 November.  Check out their Facebook page for more info.

Thank you thank you thank you!
ASN is funded almost entirely by the generous donations of individual supporters – like you! Without ASN, the many women we help wouldn’t be able to access vital financial and practical support towards covering the costs of their procedures and their journeys. Donations to ASN are vitally important to the lives of women faced with unplanned pregnancies. We are entirely volunteer-run, and our small overhead costs are covered by a regular donation. This means that any money you donate goes directly towards the cost of a woman’s abortion or transport to England. Thank you again for all your support. Without you, we wouldn’t have been able to provide accommodation, financial assistance, and confidential, non-judgemental information to the women in difficult circumstances who have contacted us.