Abortion Support Network Press Release
9 June 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DoH numbers on abortion miss the bigger picture for those in Ireland
Ireland’s abortion laws continue to harm women
The 2014 abortion statistics published by the Department of Health today show a slight increase in the number of women from Ireland and Northern Ireland travelling to England to access a safe and legal abortion. At the same time, Abortion Support Network (ASN), which provides financial assistance, practical information and accommodation to women forced to travel to England to access an abortion, has experienced a steep increase in calls from these countries.
In 2014, Abortion Support Network received a total of 552 calls from women seeking support in order to access a safe and legal abortion in Britain and we have heard from an additional 271 in the first five months of 2015.
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 the Department of Health abortion statistics tell us how many women gave an Irish or Northern Irish address at a UK family planning clinic, ASN knows 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.womenhelp.org and www.womenonweb.org, the two reputable groups providing these medications, or the hundreds more taken in by scam websites who steal women’s money.
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, and women who do not have the £400 to £2000 it costs to travel to England and pay privately for an abortion and who don’t know that ASN exists and can help them.
While official statistics show a slight increase in women travelling from Ireland to England in 2014, prior to this the numbers have been steadily decreasing, with 2013 having the lowest number in some years. At the same time, the number of people contacting us for help has been increasing each year, and has grown 520% during our five years of operation.
These are the women who are prevented by stigma from reaching out to families for help, women unable to scrape together the money to travel, women forced to share their personal business with a group of strangers in England and ask for money.
The calls we received, many from women who define themselves as against abortion or “pro-life” is further proof that criminalising abortion does not stop abortion but creates a two-tiered system in which women with money have options and women without money have babies – or do dangerous and desperate things.
We’ve heard time and time again from women forced by the despair induced by a combination of poverty and draconian abortion laws who have taken matters into their own hands – by ingesting chemicals, by overdosing on medications, by drinking excessively, by literally throwing themselves down stairs to try and induce miscarriage.
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:
“I had a boyfriend but we broke up shortly after I found out I was pregnant because he hit me. I am in difficult situation. I work a little bit but most of the money goes to childcare. I don’t know how to afford the abortion, but there is not an option to keep the baby.”
“The kids’ father left me and does not help me in any way towards food or clothes or heating or the baby’s medical bills. I don’t even know where I’m going to find the money to buy milk and now I’m pregnant and am devastated. I have no idea how I can afford an abortion but physically, mentally and financially I cannot carry this child.”
“Please I need help. I am living in Ireland I am 11 weeks pregnant. I have been evicted from my home and my child and I are homeless. I don’t have anything and no one will help me. I have no passport and I honestly am suicidal. I don’t know where to turn.”
“I was raped last month but never did anything about it as I blamed myself. I have now discovered I’m pregnant. I can’t possibly bring a child into this world at this time in my life and I would rather die than go through with this pregnancy. I need to have an abortion but I haven’t got any money.”
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 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.
2012 Total 4,887
Northern Ireland 905
2013 Total 4,481
Northern Ireland 802
Irish Republic 3,679
2014 Total 4,572
Northern Ireland 837
Irish Republic 3,735
The full report can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/report-on-abortion-statistics-in-england-and-wales-for-2014
- Numbers of women contacting Abortion Support Network
2012 Total 363
Northern Ireland 125
Irish Republic 209
Other countries 29
2013 Total 466
Northern Ireland 143
Irish Republic 280
Other countries 43
2014 Total 552
Northern Ireland 141
Irish Republic 342
Other countries 69
- 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 £1,310, 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 many organisations campaign for much needed law reform, ASN is the only group providing women travelling for abortions with the thing they need most immediately: money.