Yesterday afternoon during the first day of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children hearings on the government’s intention to legislation for the X case I received an email.
It was the monthly newsletter from the Abortion Support Network, a volunteer run charity based in the UK which provides accommodation, financial assistance and confidential, non-judgemental information to women forced to travel from Ireland and pay privately for abortions in England. It is the only organisation which provides financial assistance to women travelling for termination.
I read the email whilst I watched the last few hours of the day’s hearing. Legislating for X will see abortion provided in the most limited of circumstances where women’s lives are at risk. Several of the committee members and non members who were permitted to speak were obsessed with whether the suicidal ideation of a woman was a risk and the phrase ‘abortion as cure’ increasingly and offensively was repeated.
Whilst many of those asking questions at the Oireachtas committee hearing referred to ‘these women’, the women that were not being referred to were the 12 women a day who travel to the UK. (Unless one remembers those women who several witnesses acknowledged were suicidal or experiencing another threat to their life or their health and who travelled to the UK and will continue to do so after legislation for the X case is passed by the Oireachtas.)
Meanwhile many other women will desperately seek assistance and will not have enough money to travel to the UK for the myriad of reasons that women choose to and have to terminate a pregnancy.
The stories of those who the Abortion Support Network helped in December include.
A single mother who planned to travelled by ferry as it was cheaper but was terrified as she’d never left the country before. She was able to borrow some of the money from friends and family and ASN was able to help her make up the shortfall.
A client who rang, frantic, as she’d been misinformed that an abortion at 12 weeks would cost £1,000. ASN was able to give accurate information on clinics and prices.
A young man who had heard someone from ASN speak at a rally in Ireland, and emailed us because his partner has become pregnant and they were seeking information about clinics and prices.
A single mother of four who had spent money on medical abortion medication that didn’t work. Despite being out of work she was then able to raise the money she needed to travel to England for an abortion. Unfortunately, she was further along in pregnancy than she had thought and, while the clinic offered to pay her accommodation for three days until they could give her another appointment, she had no one to care for her children and needed to return home. ASN was able to help her return to England to have the abortion.
A young student who had been experiencing difficulties getting the visa she needed to travel to England for an abortion. Before contacting ASN she had been so desperate that she tried a number of dangerous means to self-induce a miscarriage. After overcoming the visa problems, with a grant from ASN she was able to travel and access an abortion.
A single mother in her early 30s who took out a loan at extortionate rates but even then was only able to afford some of the costs of travel, the procedure and child care while she was away. ASN was able to make a grant to cover the shortfall.
A woman who had previously suffered a still birth due to serious foetal anomalies. Despite using hormonal contraception to make sure she never had to go through that again she fell pregnant and turned to ASN for help.
A young student who put all her Christmas money towards the cost of flights and procedure. ASN was able to make up the difference.
ASN is not able to help all the women who contact it with financial assistance. Those who receive grants have them paid direct to clinics. No matter what happens this year in Ireland women will continue to experience crisis pregnancies and choose to terminate them. We cannot continue to forget about them or just ‘accept’ that they travel to the UK ‘so that’s ok then’.
I make a monthly donation to ASN so that women in financial crisis facing crisis pregnancies can be helped to decide themselves what they want to do during that crisis. It’s not ‘ok’ that women living in Ireland have that decision taken away from them because they cannot afford to travel. I believe we need to repeal the 8th amendment and respect women’s rights to choose. Continuing to refer to women whose lives are at risk and all women who are are in crisis and seeking termination for whatever reason as ‘these women’ will not make them disappear. Ignoring them won’t either.