1 Nov 2015

Northern Ireland abortion laws are still in the dark ages, this is but one example of a single woman's plight.

Northern Ireland abortion laws are still in the dark ages the Catholic hand still has a tight grip.

‘The system is inhumane’: Kally, manager of the Liverpool clinic.

She describes the system as “inhumane”. “It is very difficult for women from Ireland to come here. Lots of things contribute to the stress: they don’t want people to know; there is the extra cost, and they have to travel; there is still a stigma attached to abortion; they are afraid they may meet someone here who knows them. It has happened. I’m not saying that women from England aren’t anxious and worried, but they don’t have the added stress that the women from Ireland have.”

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.
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 because it was against the law 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

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