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No way to treat women

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas) today urges the Irish government to stop washing its hands of the 4,000 women who have to travel to Britain to access abortion care every year.

The British charity is placing an advertisement in the Irish Times in solidarity with the women who are denied legal, safe abortion in Ireland and those who campaign tirelessly for the legal change needed so women can access care at home. As the UK’s leading provider of abortion services, bpas has treated many thousands of women from Ireland since the 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution banning abortion was passed in 1983.

The Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act, which has still not come into force, will do nothing to help the women we see in our clinics every day. Irish women come to bpas with their own very personal set of circumstances – from contraception failure on the eve of university to a serious problem being diagnosed with a much longed for pregnancy. But they are united in the fact that their lives and predicaments are wilfully ignored by the political establishment, which at the same time relies on Britain to ensure no-one has to live with the consequences of forcing women to bear children they feel unable to care for.

Because they have had to make the arrangements and find the funding for travel and treatment, their abortions are often carried out further into their pregnancies than those for women in England. Nearly a third of abortions for women from Ireland are carried out at 10 weeks and later, compared with just over a fifth of abortions for women from England. Abortion is an extremely safe procedure and much safer than childbirth, but the earlier it can be performed the lower any risk to women.

Ann Furedi, bpas chief executive, said:

 “Banning abortion does not end it. Women will always find ways to end unwanted pregnancies – whether travelling to bpas or buying pills on the internet. Abortion is as much a fact of life for women in Cork as for women in Coventry or Carlisle. The women we see  from Ireland are just like those from England – but made more desperate by the financial and emotional cost of having to travel. No politician, in a civilised country, should force women to make a journey abroad  for abortion care.  The decision alone is a tough enough journey.

“bpas clinics provide the best of care – but women need clinics in Ireland. Until that happens we’re proud to help.”

Suzanne Lee of Abortion Rights Campaign Ireland said:

"Polls have repeatedly confirmed that the majority of people in Ireland now support access to abortion, but the debate around the recent legislation has left the public wondering about whether the work has already been done, whether abortion is already legal. The legislation does not provide the right or access to the procedure that the majority of Ireland would support.  It is now time for the politicians and the legislation to catch up with the will of the people.

“It is time for the people of Ireland to repeal the 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution, to trust women and to provide them with the healthcare they need in this country."

Notes for editors:

In 2012, 3,982 women giving an address in Ireland accessed abortion services in the UK. This will not represent the true number of women from Ireland who travelled for care, as some will not have given their true address and others will have been treated elsewhere in the EU.

Figures from the Department of Health show that last year 32% of abortions for women from Ireland were carried out at 10 weeks gestation and later, compared with 22% of abortions for women from England.

No form of contraception is 100% effective. The contraceptive pill for example  is 92% effective (typical use in first 12 months), which means 8 in 100 women will become pregnant while using it during the first year.

bpas supports reproductive choice and health by advocating and providing high quality services to prevent unwanted pregnancies with contraception or end them by abortion. We also offer a range of other reproductive health services through more than 50 centres throughout the UK, treating more than 60,000 women and men each year.

For more information please contact the bpas press office at press@bpas.org or 44 (0)207 612 0206/ 44 (0)7788 725185

To contact Abortion Rights Campaign Ireland please call 086 069 4070 or 086 268 9426