Money plays ever increasing role in decisions of Irish women to travel


Support agencies in the UK say half those going for abortions already have children

ON MONDAY, Mara Clarke listened to a sobbing Irishwoman on the telephone. Between them, the woman and her husband have but one part-time job, while their plans to pay for her travel to London had been upturned after their bank had refused a request for an overdraft.

Such calls to Clarke’s volunteer organisation, the Abortion Support Network, are becoming increasingly common.

“Everyone goes on that there are cheap flights. There are, but not if you need to travel tomorrow,” said Clarke, who gave only a partial welcome to yesterday’s European Court of Human Rights judgment because it only approved the challenge of one of the three women involved.

“It is almost like saying that there are some ‘nice’ cases that should be helped, and others that shouldn’t,” she said.

With 30 volunteers, the network has been contacted by over 90 women from the Republic and Northern Ireland since its foundation. Some have been given beds for the night and other help by the group, three of whom are Irish. Forty-four have been given to help with costs. So far, the network has given out £9,000. Some of the payments have been for as little as £100.

One woman had never been to an airport, and didn’t have a passport, so we helped with both of those. We are not doctors . . . but we believe that money should not be part of the equation.” Abortion costs vary from £335 to £490 (€395 to €580) in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy to £560 (€660) and upwards between weeks 15 and 19, and about £1,300 (€1,500) between weeks 20 and 24 – the last date that a pregnancy can be terminated in the UK.

Travel costs, accommodation, time off work and childcare for those women who already have family increase the bill further.

Marie Stopes International, which carried out 2,724 of the 4,000 abortions undergone by women from the Republic in the last 12 months, yesterday produced personal histories from some of those who have made the journey. Jan (not her real name), a mother aged 32, travelled with her recently unemployed husband, saying: “I have three children already and we can’t afford another child.”

A 20-year-old student said: “The Irish Government doesn’t take the needs of women into consideration. I hope this legal case will lead to a change in law. Women should have treatment in Ireland. We are facing redundancies, none of our jobs are secure and having to travel abroad for healthcare is adding to this financial pressure.”

Darinka Aleksic of the Abortion Rights Network said: “It is a real scandal that Ireland is exporting its abortion problem to Britain.

“People think that this is an issue for young single women, but half of those coming already have children. The way the media looks at it you would think that it is all about feckless 19-year-olds. That is not the case.”