Northern Ireland’s abortion laws: share your experiences

Posted in politics on November 26th, 2015 by monika, Wednesday 25 November 2015, by Carmen Fishwick

Northern Ireland’s harsh abortion laws have the most severe criminal penelties in Europe. Share your experiences of accessing abortion in the region with us.

A pro-choice abortion campaigner in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The United Nations has denounced Northern Ireland’s ban on most abortions. Photograph: Alamy

A pro-choice abortion campaigner in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The United Nations has denounced Northern Ireland’s ban on most abortions. Photograph: Alamy

Women and girls looking to access abortion in Northern Ireland face harsh restrictions and the most severe criminal penalities in Europe, putting lives at risk and forcing women to travel in order to seek abortion or send for abortion pills in the post.
Only in extremely restricted circumstances, where there is a risk to a pregnant woman’s life or a real and serious risk of long-term damage to her physical or mental health, is abortion permitted. The 1967 Abortion Act does not extend to Northern Ireland and all the main local political parties are opposed to liberalising the strict laws.
Just 23 legal abortions were carried out in Northern Ireland on the NHS in 2013-14, yet it is estimated that 2,000 Northern Irish women travel to English hospitals and clinics every year to access the medical procedure.
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‘It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done’: the Irish women forced to travel for abortions

Posted in politics on November 11th, 2015 by monika, 31 October 2015, by Amelia Gentleman

At least 4,500 women from Ireland travel to England each year for an abortion. Photograph: Liz McBurney for the Guardian

At least 4,500 women from Ireland travel to England each year for an abortion. Photograph: Liz McBurney for the Guardian

Every year, thousands of women come from Ireland to England for abortions – illegal at home, and punishable in Northern Ireland by life imprisonment. These are their stories.
By 10.30am, 10 minutes before her first appointment, Catriona is already grey-faced with exhaustion and so tired that talking is a struggle; her words fall out on top of each other. She is six weeks pregnant and has travelled overnight by boat from a small town an hour outside Belfast to Liverpool for an abortion. She took the boat because it was cheaper than flying and because she had no passport, and didn’t have the money or the time to get one; but it has been a difficult journey and she hasn’t slept. Tonight, after the procedure, she will go back by boat, a second night sitting bolt upright, trying to sleep. This is her first trip to England.
“A lot of bad things have happened to me in my life, but this has been the worst,” says the 28-year-old single mother who, like all the women I spoke to for this article, did not want to use her real name. It’s not the abortion itself that is troubling her; she has two sons already, and no desire to expand her family. It’s the difficulties involved in getting herself, at short notice, to England for a medical procedure considered a criminal offence punishable by life imprisonment in Northern Ireland. In total, the cost of the round trip and the abortion will come to about £570. Over the past three weeks, while saving for the journey, she has cut down on the food for the family and hasn’t bought oil to heat the house. “We’ve been going to my mum’s house, where there’s a fire; she’s been giving food to the boys.”
Catriona hadn’t realised abortion law in Northern Ireland was so restrictive. When she told her GP she didn’t want to keep the baby, the doctor said she couldn’t help her and that travelling to England was the only option; she gave her a piece of paper with a telephone number for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, who booked her into the Liverpool clinic.
Northern Ireland’s abortion laws have added multiple layers of stress to an already difficult situation for Catriona – expense, secrecy, stigma and logistical difficulties. “I’m not feeling too well,” she says. “I don’t know if it’s tiredness or the travelling, the thinking what is going to happen, the wondering if it’s a good thing or a bad thing.” Her mother’s boyfriend has made the journey with her, to give her support, but no one else apart from her mother knows she is away. “You feel like it has to be a big secret. I didn’t tell the children. I haven’t told my friends… I think they would be sympathetic, but most of them are Catholic and think it’s a sin, so I never mentioned it. There’s so much negativity about it. They make it out to be so bad. You still know it is right for you, but in your head you are thinking, maybe it is bad.”

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‘I’m in Trouble’: The Women Boarding Ireland’s Illegal Abortion Bus

Posted in politics on October 28th, 2015 by monika

Vice News,  October 26, 2015 by Sally Hayden

A pro-choice campaigner looks out from the "abortion pill bus." (Photo by Sally Hayden/VICE News)

A pro-choice campaigner looks out from the “abortion pill bus.” (Photo by Sally Hayden/VICE News)

Sarah was just two weeks pregnant when she discovered an illegal abortion bus was coming to town.
“I have a four year old girl, I have a mortgage, it’s a new relationship, it’s not a good time,” the 31-year-old told VICE News, adding that she had been using contraception. “I just started a degree course, I work, I can’t afford a baby right now.”
Sarah — who asked that we change her name — lives in Limerick, a small, riverside city on the southwest of Ireland, a country where abortions are almost always illegal. She was making arrangements to travel to the UK to obtain a termination when she found out about a direct action, organized by a group called called ROSA (short for Reproductive rights, against Oppression, Sexism, and Austerity), which might be able to help her.

VICE News spent two days this week traveling around Ireland with this group of activists and one member of parliament who had decided to wilfully break the law and risk up to 14 years in prison by distributing the World Health Organization-approved medical abortion pills mifepristone and misoprostol to women.
Their whistle-stop tour of the country finished on Saturday, but participants told VICE News on Monday that they have still had no contact from the police, something they say proves authorities are unwilling to prosecute people under the anti-abortion law because they welcome “escape valves.”
Despite protests and media attention, a significant number of women came to the bus to ask for help, and VICE News can confirm that at least one — Sarah — procured pills for imminent use, while others will be given them over the next few days.

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How heartbreak led Helen and Graham Linehan to campaign for abortion in Ireland

Posted in politics on October 19th, 2015 by monika, 19 October 2015 by Amelia Gentleman

Helen and Graham Linehan opted for an abortion in London after discovering the foetus would not survive after birth. Photograph: Teri Pengilley/for the Guardian

Helen and Graham Linehan opted for an abortion in London after discovering the foetus would not survive after birth. Photograph: Teri Pengilley/for the Guardian

When Helen Linehan found out in 2004 that there was something fatally wrong with the 11-week-old foetus she was carrying, she was advised to have an immediate termination, because doctors knew there was no chance that the baby would survive longer than an hour after birth.
The foetus had a condition known as acrania, which meant that its skull had not closed over the brain. Although it probably would have survived inside the womb, it would not have lived once it was born, and doctors were clear that termination was the only option. Accompanied by her husband, Graham – writer of the television comedy series Father Ted, Black Books and The IT Crowd – she had an abortion three days later in a hospital near their home in London. “It was terribly sad and devastating, but it was handled well,” she said.
Some months later, they moved back to Ireland, where they discovered that, had they been living there during this first pregnancy, Helen would have been forced to carry the pregnancy to term, or face a 14-year prison sentence for procuring an illegal abortion.
The shock of that revelation has prompted the couple to speak out about their experience for the first time, as part of a campaign by Amnesty International calling for decriminalisation of abortion in Ireland. The fact that abortion is illegal in Ireland, even in cases where there is no chance for the foetus to survive, makes Ireland “a dangerous place to be pregnant”, said Graham. “I don’t think it is safe for women in Ireland to be pregnant. Abortion is an important medical procedure and when that’s taken off the table, then you’re not safe. A place without abortion puts two lives in danger, not one,” he said.
“In Ireland, Helen would be a criminal to have undergone the termination. She would have had to carry the child knowing it would die in great pain shortly after she had given birth to it,” he said. “I have always been very proud to be Irish but I am embarrassed by Ireland’s abortion laws. This is just something you can’t be proud of. It’s barbaric.”
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Ireland doesn’t have to be bound to the past. It needs to repeal the Eighth Amendment of its constitution, and the other laws that chain women to the past and deny them their rights.
Sign our petition to the Irish government at ‪‬
Watch also this video by amnesty ireland:

Why Ireland needs a referendum on abortion

Posted in politics on October 9th, 2015 by monika, october 5th, by Siobhan Fenton



As it stands, Ireland is presenting two faces to the world: one is as the country which celebrated LGBT rights in May, and one as a place that forces women to go abroad to have control over their own bodies.
In May of this year, the world’s eyes were on Ireland as it became the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage by popular vote. As Dublin city centre erupted into a sea of rainbow flags, kissing couples and spontaneous proposals, it seemed that after centuries of fierce Catholicism and socially conservative culture Ireland was transforming into a progressive and modern liberal society.
Watching the celebrations unfold, many felt that the same-sex marriage referendum marked a turning point not just for the LGBT community but for wider Irish society. One group in particular which was watching with keen interest was the country’s pro-choice movement. If a compelling case could be put forward for LGBT rights, could the same now be feasibly be done for abortion rights?
Abortion remains entirely illegal in the Republic of Ireland, unless a woman’s life is deemed to be in serious danger. A1983 referendum enshrined in Irish law the country’s that “the life of the unborn” is equal to that of “the mother”.
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Thousands Take to Streets in Dublin as Ireland’s Abortion Debate Heats Up Again

Posted in politics on September 28th, 2015 by monika, September 26, 2015  by Sally Hayden

Amnesty Ireland @AmnestyIreland

Amnesty Ireland @AmnestyIreland

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Dublin today in a demonstration against the country’s restrictive abortion law, which criminalizes terminations — even in cases involving rape, incest, or fatal fetal abnormality.

The “March for Choice” followed a route through the city center of the Irish capital, and saw many women and men pulling suitcases behind them, a gesture meant to symbolize the estimated 10 to 12 women who travel to the UK each day for abortions.

The marchers called for the repeal of the Irish Constitution’s eighth amendment — introduced in 1983 — which says that an unborn child’s right to life is equal to that of its mother.
In recent weeks, high-profile Irish women, including Irish Times columnist Roisin Ingle and comedian Tara Flynn, have gone public about their abortions, provoking debate across the country and ensuring that the issue will remain a heated topic of discussion in the run up to next year’s general election.

“Having a baby that first time would not have been best for me,” Ingle wrote. “I have not had one scrap of regret or shame about what I did.”
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Hundreds of Irish women travel to Netherlands for abortions

Posted in politics on September 23rd, 2015 by monika, Sept 16, 2015   by Kitty Holland

Suitcases signifying the Irish women who travel abroad to access abortion services, outside the Department of the Taoiseach. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Suitcases signifying the Irish women who travel abroad to access abortion services, outside the Department of the Taoiseach. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Almost 1,500 women travelled from Ireland to the Netherlands over a seven year-period to have abortions.
The figures, gathered from the 17 abortion clinics in the Netherlands and verified by the HSE’s Crisis Pregnancy Programme, show 1,497 women gave Irish addresses at Dutch abortion clinics between 2006 and 2013.

Figures for 2014 and this year were not available.
Irish crisis pregnancy counselling services have been offering information on Dutch and British abortion clinics since 2005.
Dutch clinics have a reputation for providing a sensitive service and being cheaper than some clinics in Britain.
However, the number of women giving Irish addresses in Dutch clinics has declined sharply in recent years.
While 461 women are recorded as travelling from Ireland to have an abortion in the Netherlands in 2006, this had fallen to 12 in 2013.
The numbers fell to 351 in 2008, to 134 in 2009 and to 31 in 2010.
Some 34,602 women and girls gave Irish addresses at abortion clinics in England and Wales over the past nine years, according to data from the UK Office of National Statistics.
The numbers registering Irish addresses there fell consistently in these years, from 5,042 in 2006 to 3,679 in 2013.
However, the numbers rose last year, when 3,735 women gave Irish addresses in Britain.
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Róisín Ingle: Why I need to tell my abortion story

Posted in politics on September 14th, 2015 by monika, Sep 12, 2015

‘I can’t speak for anyone else. But for me. This was the right thing to do’– Róisín Ingle, in an extract from her new book, writes about her abortion.
Róisín Ingle opens up about her abortion: ‘I am not a bad person, I am not a murderer’
The Irish Times columnist said now is the time for her to share her experience with the world.

Photograph: Marc O'Sullivan

Photograph: Marc O’Sullivan

If people say one thing and ask one question about the personal column I’ve been writing in these pages for nearly 15 years it is this: “You are so honest but is there anything you would never write about?”
When they ask me, I tell them the truth. Of course there is. There are Somethings I wouldn’t write about. Plenty of Things. Numerous and various Experiences. But it’s the same one Experience that always comes to my mind when anyone asks that question. And instead of being honest about the Experience, I tell them “I have my secrets” and flash what I hope is an enigmatic smile. In terms of shutting down this particular line of enquiry, I’ve found it works a treat.
Many times over the years I’ve stopped myself writing about this Experience. And every time I’ve asked myself why. Was I ashamed of it? No. Was I embarrassed? Not at all. Did I feel I’d done something wrong? Quite the opposite. What I had done was the right decision for me.

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Abortion is a healthcare issue, not about politics or religion

Posted in politics on September 14th, 2015 by monika, 14 September 2015 by Claire McNeilly

Speaking out: Grainne Teggart, Campaign Manager for Amnesty International, says she is proud of the work her organisation is doing in Northern Ireland


Grainne Teggart, Campaign Manager for Amnesty International

Claire McNeilly talks to the Amnesty International’s Campaign Manager about attitudes to same sex-marriage and abortion in Northern Ireland.

Q. Many people here believe abortion should be allowed in cases of rape or foetal abnormality; why do you think it’s been so difficult to get the law changed to bring it into line with the rest of the UK?

A. Mainly it has been political obstruction, because traditionally in Northern Ireland it had been perceived and presented as such a black and white issue. People didn’t understand that there was a spectrum there; it’s not about there being good or bad abortions, it’s not as clear cut when you have, for example, a minor where there’s familial rape and that child is pregnant. Or if a woman has a wanted pregnancy and is given a fatal foetal diagnosis.

Q. But the DUP say there’s not a lot of political support for a change. What’s your opinion on that?

A. I disagree with the DUP. There is political support there, but it’s a difficult issue. There’s a split within certain parties about the best way to address this. We’ve seen, for example, the DoJ (Department of Justice) consulted and a draft paper put to the Executive in June this year and that, so far, has been blocked.

Q. And what if that doesn’t get through the Executive?

A. Then a Bill can’t get into the Assembly. That is why we’ve had to go through the courts, because if our politicians can’t properly deal with these difficult issues then we have to take the legal route. That said, I haven’t given up hope on the Assembly, because public opinion is changing and the politicians will have to reflect that.

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New poll finds two-thirds majority in Ireland want abortion decriminalised

Posted in politics on July 19th, 2015 by monika, 8.7.2015

211858_Lupe_-_MBMR_edit“45% are in favour of allowing all women access to abortion in Ireland as they choose.”
The Irish Government is under growing pressure to reform its anti-abortion law, one of the most restrictive in the world, Amnesty International said today as it published results of an opinion poll on public attitudes to abortion in Ireland.
The poll, carried out for Amnesty International by RED C Research and Marketing, shows that the majority of people in Ireland are not aware that abortion is a criminal offence. The vast majority disagree with the current criminal sanctions for women who have abortions – or doctors who provide abortions.
Asked whether the Irish Government should decriminalise abortion, 67% agreed and 25% disagreed. 81% are in favour of significantly widening the grounds for legal abortion access in Ireland.
Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland said:
“It is clear that Irish views on abortion have undergone a major transformation. People in Ireland are now, on the whole, more understanding of the situations women find themselves in and firmly believe that women should not be criminalised for having an abortion.
“Only a third of Irish people polled were aware that it is a criminal offence for a woman to access abortion here unless her life is at risk. Even with the long debate over Ireland’s 2013 abortion law, less than one in 10 were aware that a woman who has an abortion could face a 14-year prison sentence.
“This poll demonstrates that on the issue of abortion Ireland’s people are clearly way ahead of their government leaders. The conversation we urgently need in Ireland on abortion is a challenging one, but it must happen.  The Irish Government should put this issue to the people as a matter of priority. Decriminalising abortion is not only a human rights obligation – it is what people in Ireland want. And this means repealing the 8th Amendment.”.
People aged 65 or over were the least aware that abortion is a criminal offence (82%). Those aged over 55 disagreed most with the possible 14 year jail term for women. Colm O’Gorman said: “This age group tends to be the least in favour of widening access to abortion, but clearly they have even greater awareness of the brutality of this penalty.”
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