Fewer women travelling from Ireland to get abortions? Look behind the statistics


While official statistics report a slight decrease in numbers of women travelling to access abortions, calls to Abortion Support Network (ASN) from women in financial distress continue to rise exponentially. ASN urges support for and participation in the All Ireland Rally for Choice being held this Saturday 7 July.

Every year thousands of women, living in Ireland and Northern Ireland are forced to travel to England to access a safe and legal abortion. In addition, there are the women who access abortion in other European countries, and those who source medical abortion pills from the internet.

At the same time, anti-abortion organisations continue to promote stigma and shame around abortion. A current example of this is the advertising campaign created by Youth Defence. Their campaign slogan, “Abortion tears her life apart. There is always a better solution” implies a link between abortion and mental health that is both factually incorrect and intentionally misleading (according to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine), as well as purporting to somehow know what is “better” for every woman who ever seeks to terminate a pregnancy.

Abortion Support Network (ASN) knows from the hundreds of women we speak to that the anguish and guilt caused by the current punitive laws, as well as misinformation distributed by groups such as Youth Defence, add to what is already a stressful and difficult time for women facing crisis pregnancies.

Abortion Support Network Director Mara Clarke said:

‘Abortion Support Network is an all volunteer organisation that provides financial assistance, accommodation and confidential, non-judgemental information to 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.

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 more than doubling 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

We don’t think it’s fair 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.

We further deplore the tactics of anti-abortion groups like Youth Defence that add to the hardship faced by these women by heaping on misinformation and hoping to promote stigma and shame. We applaud all of the people who will be taking part in Saturday’s All Ireland Rally for Choice and encourage anyone who feels that women living in Ireland and Northern Ireland are treated unfairly to make their voices heard.’

Case Studies

These are some examples of the women and families who have called us:

A young married couple whose wanted pregnancy revealed severe foetal anomalies. The couple had two young children and were struggling to make ends meet on unemployment benefits, plus the young woman had a number of other medical issues during the pregnancy. Abortion Support Network arranged a grant to help cover the cost of the procedure.

A mother of three, including a child under the age of one, who was 19 weeks pregnant. Initially she looked into trying to self-abort as she could not afford to pay for a termination. She was in a desperate state when she called Abortion Support Network. Having known for some time that she was pregnant she hadn’t managed to book an appointment because she was still struggling to save all the money she needed. Despite being worried about her health she had been ‘terrified to go near a hospital’, in case they would force her to have the baby. Abortion Support Network paid for her flights and the remainder of her clinic fee.

A 32 year old woman who already had a young baby and didn’t realise she was pregnant until she was relatively close to the legal limit for abortions in the UK. 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 enquiries please contact:

Mara Clarke, Director, Abortion Support Network.
[email protected]
07913 353 530

Notes for Editors

1. Numbers of women travelling for abortion
For the second year in a row, the Department of Health has reported that there has been a slight decrease in the number of abortions performed for women giving addresses in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

2010 Total – 5,503
2010 Republic of Ireland – 4,402
2010 Northern Ireland – 1,101

2011 Total – 5,156
2011 Republic of Ireland – 4,149
2011 Northern Ireland – 1,007

The full report can be found here: http://transparency.dh.gov.uk/2012/05/29/abortion-statistics-2011/

While overall numbers of women travelling may be dropping slightly, the numbers of women contacting ASN in financial distress needing an abortion more than doubled last year and is set to again this year.

Calls to ASN in Calendar Year 2010: 89
Calls to ASN in Calendar Year 2011: 251
Calls to ASN in the first 6 months of Calendar Year 2012: 183

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 All Ireland Rally for Choice is happening Saturday 7 July in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Other events are planned across all of Ireland. More information on the event can be found here: http://www.facebook.com/IrelandForChoice

4. The Abortion Law:

In the Republic of Ireland abortion is illegal except under extremely limited circumstances, such as risk to the life of the mother. It is thus virtually impossible for women to access the procedure legally in their own country. However, women can legally travel abroad for an abortion. Further information about abortion law in Ireland is available from:

Irish Family Planning Association: http://www.ifpa.ie/eng/Hot-Topics/Abortion
Bpas Ireland website: http://www.abortion.ie/index.php?view=category&ID=3271

Abortion Law in Northern Ireland (despite being part of the UK), abortion is illegal except under extremely limited circumstances, such as risk to the life of the mother. The 1967 Abortion Act was never extended to Northern Ireland, and it is virtually impossible for women to access an abortion legally.

FPA (Northern Ireland):http://www.fpa.org.uk/campaignsandadvocacy/reproductiverights
Bpas Ireland website: http://www.abortion.ie/index.php?view=category&ID=3271

5. 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 £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.

About Abortion Support Network

Abortion Support Network (ASN) is an all-volunteer 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.


Twitter: @abortionsupport