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Why UK Abortion Clinics Are Rejecting Irish Women

17/02/2017 14:51

In Ireland, a country grown on the grounds of Catholicism, it should come as no surprise that abortion is heavily restricted. With the Eighth Amendment, a law stating that a pregnant woman cannot have an abortion unless it is to save her life or she has medical complications, many women flock to Britain each day (an average of twelve) to have these abortions or access abortion pills.

Abortion is indeed a sensitive topic from Trump supporting the pro-life movement to devout Catholics in the Philippines not even uttering the word due to its connotation of shame and embarrassment. However, in Ireland, the demand for broadening access to abortions is on the rise. Although women previously had the ability to get on a flight and carry out the abortion in a British clinic, this complicated and expensive process is about to become one step more difficult with Britain's largest abortion provider turning away Irish women from the clinics.

Marie Stopes International, an international non-governmental organisation providing safe abortion services in 37 countries, stated that it would prioritise patients referred by the British NHS and that "Irish women may have to go to slightly different locations to access the services." However, according to The Times, the organisation emphasised that Irish women who had already booked appointments would still be treated.

However, there is a beacon of light amidst this chaos with Marie Stopes stating that these restrictions would not be permanent since "January and February are always the busiest times of the year" and to cope with the "high demand", they are "referring some women to other providers to ensure they can be seen as soon as possible."

A spokeswoman for Marie Stopes said the organisation would refer some of its Irish clients to another abortion provider, British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), which is also able to offer terminations. Although, as it turns out, this is still a challenge as the provider is also under strain due to overwhelming demand.

A spokeswoman, Linda Kavanagh, for the Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC) in Ireland highlighted that the inability of the British system to support the 12 women who travel from Ireland to Britain each day "serve(d) as a reminder that the Irish government has abdicated its responsibility to women and pregnant people in Ireland."

Undoubtedly, there is a fundamental flaw in the fact that access to abortion is blocked in Ireland unless there are specific situations in which the woman's life is at risk. There was significant controversy over the death of Savita Halappanavar in 2013 after doctors refused to terminate her miscarrying pregnancy to save her life due to the fear of criminal penalties that could be imposed. These situations have resulted in many women travelling to Britain for abortions. Whilst this is complicated and expensive, those who are unable to pay for the abortion have limited choices in what can they do and, consequently, have to buy pills which induce a miscarriage instead. Thus, the danger that women can potentially be in as a result of their pregnancies or the inability to have an abortion must be highlighted.

BPAS, the UK's leading abortion care service, launched a campaign in Northern Ireland to provide women the help they need including discussions about using illegal abortion pills since their fear of getting caught results in the inability to receive the appropriate aftercare. A free helpline has been established for women who have questions on abortion and pregnancy.

So, what's the solution? Although it is likely that women whose needs for an abortion will be met, there are plans for women to strike on International Women's Day (the 8th of March) if the Irish government refuses to have a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment before then. The Eighth Amendment (ratified in 1983) gives direct recognition of "the right to life of the unborn" identical to that of its mother. Thus, the Eighth Amendment has prevented abortion even in extreme cases of rape and incest, and the inability to carry out abortions if the mother wants to. This has prompted outrage across Ireland and explains the patterns in women flocking to Britain to carry out abortions, a strain on both their emotional and financial well-being.

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