25 November 2009
The UK Government must pay for women in Northern Ireland to travel to England to have an abortion, fpa said today as part of its pro-choice Time for Change campaign. Because of Northern Ireland's highly restrictive and oppressive attitude towards abortion, fpa estimates that every year an excess of one million pounds is collectively spent by women forced into travelling to England from Northern Ireland to have an abortion.
Last year 1,173 women from Northern Ireland, needing an abortion made the trip to England. On average, women pay around £900 each, this covers the costs of travelling, accommodation and the procedure itself (although some women have paid up to £2,000). fpa estimates that in 2008 alone, women in Northern Ireland going for an abortion in England collectively paid 1 million, fifty five thousand and seven hundred pounds between them to do so.
Although abortion is available free on the NHS in Britain, abortion is only available in Northern Ireland in ‘exceptional circumstances’. Consequently most women who need an abortion (including victims of rape and incest) are denied one and are forced to travel to England and elsewhere in Europe paying for all the costs incurred themselves.
fpa is the only organisation in Northern Ireland which provides an impartial, non-directive counselling service for women with a unplanned or crisis pregnancy. fpa are demanding that the UK Government uses NHS funding to cover what women are having to pay themselves.
“Every penny comes from the pockets of desperate women coping with an unplanned or crisis pregnancy during some of Northern Ireland's worst periods of recession and high unemployment” said Dr Audrey Simpson OBE, Director of fpa in Northern Ireland.
“As UK citizens and UK taxpayers, women in Northern Ireland are already contributing to a central NHS budget which provides abortions. The Assembly refuses to recognise women's reproductive rights so the UK Government must step in and offer the same NHS treatment that women in England, Scotland and Wales are entitled to.”
“In Britain we would never tell a woman that if she's been raped or sexually abused, or has a pregnancy diagnosed with fetal abnormality that if she wants an abortion she must pay for it herself. But this is what women in Northern Ireland are told everyday.”
As part of its campaign, fpa have launched a petition on the Prime Ministers No 10 website and an early day motion which had 62 signatures from MPs supporting the call for funding.
For further information please contact the fpa press office on 020 7608 5265/5264, mobile 07958 921060, or Dr Audrey Simpson direct on 028 90 316 102 or mobile 07985 382 702.
fpa (Family Planning Association) is a registered charity working to improve the sexual health and reproductive rights of all people throughout the UK.