Women feel need for abortion ‘cover stories’ for work, survey author says

Four in five respondents say women’s health should be priority in reform of abortion law

Independents4Change TD Clare Daly TD said the upcoming referendum offered a chance to remove the barrier to women’s reproductive health. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Independents4Change TD Clare Daly TD said the upcoming referendum offered a chance to remove the barrier to women’s reproductive health. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Irish women undergoing abortions feel under pressure to create a “cover story” for the workplace which is adding to their burden and stigma, an author of a survey on abortion has said.

Fiona Bloomer of the University of Ulster said the research, carried out on behalf of the Alliance for Choice, found that women in Ireland feel they have to come up with an excuse for their absence from work when they are taking time off to have an abortion.

“There is pressure in that. When you are telling lies upon lies upon lies. The burden of that on top of everything else,” she said. “I think the general stigma of silencing over abortion means that women are reluctant to speak support. They are not sure of who to turn to.”

More than 3,000 union members from the Republic and Northern Ireland took part in the research. Survey respondents were provided with a series of statements on reform of abortion law and there was a strong majority in favour of change. Some 80 per cent agreed/strongly agreed that women’s health should be the priority in any reform of the abortion law while 17 per cent agreed/strongly agreed that the law should remain as it is.

Dr Bloomer was among the speakers at an event in the Metropole Hotel in Cork lastnight titled Abortion as Workplace Issue, which was organised by the Trade Union Campaign to Repeal the Eighth Amendment.

She said the trade union movement had a responsibility to its members to “break that stigma” surrounding abortion.

Sick certification Dr Mary Favier, of Doctors for Choice

, said women who opt to have an abortion “must lie to colleagues and submit sick certification that has nothing to do with why they were actually absent”.

“A woman on minimum wage gets penalised twice – first with the cost of the procedure and of travel, and then with losing pay, rarely being entitled to sick leave,” she said.

Independents4Change TD Clare Daly TD told the meeting the referendum offered a chance to remove the barrier to women’s reproductive health.

She said there was an economic reality to the situation in Ireland while the Eighth Amendment existed, which was that the most vulnerable were the least able to access an abortion, which she said should be a basic right.

Brendan Ogle of Unite the Union said the referendum was about whether the Constitution was the appropriate place to deal with healthcare issues surrounding abortion.

“I do not believe it is and for that reason I will vote ‘Yes Repeal’,” he said.