No-one can argue that this is a decision women, partners and families take lightly in any country. However, in Ireland – North and South – the choice is made even more difficult as women have to travel to England, Wales, Scotland or further afield to access abortion services.
In 2010, over 5,500 women attending abortion clinics in England alone gave addresses in Ireland. The Family Planning Association estimates that the average cost of travelling to England from Northern Ireland for an abortion (including travel and accommodation) is £2,000 – a huge amount of money for young people and workers which has to be accessed in a very short space of time in these situations.
The lack of safe, non-judgmental and on-demand abortion services here is putting a huge added and unnecessary strain on women and families who find themselves in an already difficult situation.
Further sex education and contraceptive services as well as support for women who want to have children is necessary, as women should truly have the right to decide if and when they have a child. Women should also be given the proper financial support to help them raise children. However, the current proposals for changes to the welfare system are going in the opposite direction.
In the South, legislation has finally been moved by the Socialist Party’s TD Clare Daly which will force the government to legislate for abortions where there is a threat to the well-being of the mother. Successive governments have ignored their obligation to do this for the past 20 years.
Legal change is necessary and women here need to continue to fight for their right to be able to access abortion services. The social stigma that continues to be attached also needs to be challenged further to make sure that women will have access to safe, free and on-demand abortion services which include after-care and counselling support if needed.