Nearly 25,000 Irish women went to Britain for abortions in 2010-2014

Belfast-based journalism project Detail Data reveals results of investigation

No ‘typical’ clients: a  Marie Stopes International clinic in the north of England. Photograph:  Ross Parry Agency

No ‘typical’ clients: a Marie Stopes International clinic in the north of England. Photograph: Ross Parry Agency

 

“The Northern Ireland and Irish governments don’t mind women having abortions just as long as they’re not here in Ireland,” according to Northern Ireland Amnesty campaigner Gráinne Teggart.

“Abortions not being lawful doesn’t mean that women don’t have abortions. It means that they either resort to desperate measures or they seek those services elsewhere.”

Ms Teggart was commenting on the findings of an investigation by Belfast-based journalism project, Detail Data, which shows women from Ireland had almost 25,000 abortions in England and Wales between 2010 and 2014.

Donagh Stenson of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, says Irish women who come to their clinics “will talk to us about how they are going to be accepted back in society and we even have religious conversations with them about being asked whether they’re going to go to hell because of a decision they’ve taken to end the pregnancy.

“That can be quite difficult for our staff to hear a woman saying that. Even though they know that the decision they have taken is the right decision for them.”

Karen Lannon has worked for Marie Stopes for 11 years and is a healthcare worker in its main Manchester clinic, which accounts for almost a third of all abortions for women with Irish addresses.

Abortion journeys: where women from Ireland have abortions in England and Wales

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“Some Irish women arrive at our clinic with just a jacket on and not even enough money to buy a sandwich. If they haven’t had a consultation already, they can be distraught and fearful. Some even ask if they are going to die because that’s what they’ve been told at home.”

She said there isn’t “a typical client”. “We have seen girls aged 13 and happily married women in their mid 40s. They come from all walks of life.

“English girls want to know how painful it will be. Many Irish girls also ask: ‘What is God going to think?’”

David Smyth, the public policy officer at the Evangelical Alliance, said that while he could understand where a drive for change was coming from in cases involving life-limiting disability, his Christian organisation would disagree with abortion being the answer.

“The really difficult cases of fatal foetal abnormality, or life limiting disability as I prefer to talk about, or rape and incest, sexual crime, are heartbreaking. I suppose we dare to believe that in every human life there is dignity and that the premature ending of an unborn child’s life does not actually solve the horrendous crime or the awful situation that they face.

“For us, the answer is not to prematurely end the life of that child who might or might not live for a short period of time.

“We feel there needs to be better perinatal hospice care for the woman and unborn child in this moment.”

Lynn McKenzie is centre coordinator at the Pregnancy Resource Centre in Carrickfergus, Co Antrim, which was set up by a group of churches but states that it does not have a pro-choice or pro-life stance.

Mrs McKenzie said: “Unfortunately the pro-life lobby is associated with the image of people standing with placards showing pictures of aborted babies. We believe it isn’t right to tell anyone what to choose.

“We don’t give an opinion or judgment or advice. We just present the facts and encourage women to take their time to make a decision.”

For more on this story, see thedetail.tv.