Woman not allowed to travel for abortion


An eastern European woman seeking humanitarian leave to remain here has been refused permission to travel for an abortion. The woman, who is 10 weeks' pregnant, is married with children and living in Cork.

She does not wish to be identified, though her case has given rise to "extreme concern" among refugee support groups.

Ms Gertrude Cotter, co-ordinator of the Irish Immigrant Support Centre in Cork, said the woman had been referred to a clinic in Britain for the abortion, scheduled for late last week.

"She was referred to the clinic by a woman's health centre here in Cork. She was in here with me last week, barely able to speak English. She was in bits. She does not want to go through with her pregnancy under any circumstances. I saw her appointment confirmation but she had to cancel it because she couldn't get the necessary travel documents.

"She has been told by the Department of Justice to go to her embassy and get an abortion in her own country. But how can she go to her embassy when she is seeking protection from the government of her country?"

Ms Cotter said the woman's asylum application had been rejected and she had applied for humanitarian leave to remain.

Ms Cabrini Gibbons, legal policy officer with the Irish Refugee Council, explained that while obtaining an exit and re-entry visa to travel for an abortion was reasonably straightforward for asylum-seekers, women who had failed in their asylum application and had applied for humanitarian leave to remain had lost the protection of the State.

"While they are free to leave the State they will almost certainly not get back in. Also they won't gain entry to Britain without a visa and they won't get a visa if they don't have travel documents to get back into Ireland," said Ms Gibbons.

She added that she had come across a similar case last year in Dublin where a single mother from Nigeria had an appointment for an abortion at a clinic in Brixton. She was refused the necessary travel documents and also had to cancel her appointment. Concerns were raised that this woman may have had a back-street abortion in Dublin. A fortnight after cancelling her appointment in London, she had "lost" the baby.

Ms Cotter said she had heard anecdotally of women in this situation seeking back-street abortions.

In July last year gardaí in Dublin confirmed they were investigating two "back-street" abortions - one carried out on a Filipino national and another on Romanian national, both in their early 20s. A Moldovan woman whom gardaí suspected carried out at least one of the abortions, for €500, at an apartment in Dublin 7, had fled the State.

Ms Gibbons said the council planned to voice its concerns about the issues raised by these cases with the Crisis Pregnancy Agency. As well as concerns about these women's rights to travel, there were "serious health" concerns, she said.

A spokesman said the Department of Justice would not comment on individual cases. He added, however, that it decided on a "case-by-case basis" whether a person seeking humanitarian leave to remain could leave the State temporarily.