Today on International Women’s Day, a global day to celebrate the achievements of women and advance gender equality, at least 15 women resident in Ireland will travel to England for abortion care or request abortion medication online.
In 2015, 3,451 women from the Republic of Ireland were recorded as travelling to England for abortion care, which is around 12 women every working day, although this number is an underestimate as it only tallies those who provided an Irish address. Data recently published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, BJOG, also showed that in 2015, 1,438 women from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland sought abortion medication from one online provider alone, with three quarters of these requests estimated to be from the Republic of Ireland– equating to three women every day of the week.
Obtaining legal abortion care in England comes at significant personal cost for women from Ireland. After the costs of travel by sea or air, abortion treatment itself can cost between €420 to €1550, and the overall financial burden for each woman may be significantly higher due to loss of earnings as a result of the need to take days off work or pay for additional childcare. This can leave some women with little choice but to seek pills online. However they do this at significant personal risk, with the possibility of a 14 year prison term – the harshest penalty for unlawful abortion in Europe.
As a result of the extra logistics involved in travelling, including finding the funds to do so and arranging childcare or time off work, women resident in Ireland last year presented to bpas services on average one week later than women resident in the UK (England, Wales and Scotland). While abortion is an extremely safe procedure, and much safer than continuing pregnancy and childbirth, the earlier an abortion can be performed the safer it is.
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service, bpas, does what it can to improve access for women from Ireland by reducing the cost of treatment for them, in recognition of the extra costs they incur. We have also set up a nurse-led telephone helpline for women who have used abortion medication obtained online and who are concerned about their symptoms, or simply need reassurance. However none of this compensates for the lack of care at home.
Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said:
“At bpas we see women from Ireland with cancer, women who cannot afford another child, women whose babies have no chance of survival, women who are simply not in the position to start a family. They are united in the injustice and indignity their own country imposes upon them by forcing them to travel for the care they need. While women from the UK arrive at our clinics with a parent, partner, or friend, women from Ireland come exhausted from travel, anxious as to what lies ahead, but often without emotional support by their side.
"On International Women’s Day we celebrate advances towards gender equality. In Ireland this has been possible not despite an abortion ban, but precisely because other countries have enabled Irish women to exercise reproductive choice – whether by providing services lawfully in clinics or sending pills to them in the post. Let us think today of the 15 women who are travelling or searching on the internet for a solution to a pregnancy they know cannot continue. We hope the day will come when no woman has to get up in the middle of the night to leave her country for abortion care, or risk her liberty furtively obtaining abortion medication online. But until that day comes, we will be here for the women of Ireland, and will stand by their side in their struggle for care at home.”
For more information please contact the bpas press office on 0207 061 3377, 07788 725185 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors:
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service, bpas, is a charity which sees more than 70,000 women a year and provides reproductive healthcare services including pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management and contraception, at clinics across the UK. It supports and advocates for reproductive choice. More information can be found at www.bpas.org