The stories of Sarah and Laura on the BBC Nolan Show have re-opened the debate on abortion in Ireland.
Between 1980 – 2012, at least 154,573 women living in Ireland travelled to England and Wales to access safe abortion services.
In the UK an abortion costs between £400 (€465) and £1,500 (€1,750) depending on how far the pregnancy has progressed. Northern irish women have to pay because the NI Health Service says it will not cover abortion costs since abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland-
Women living in Ireland also pay to access safe and legal abortion services in other EU countries.
From the dawn of history women have always sought abortions. Abortion was accepted in ancient Rome and Greece.
Through much of Western history abortion was not criminal if it was carried out before ‘quickening’; that is before the foetus moved in the womb at between 18 and 20 weeks into the pregnancy.
Until that time people tended to regard the foetus as part of the mother and so abortion was just another forms of surgery
Changes in the law in the 19th century meant that for 110 years, until the 1960s the secret world of illegal abortion was mostly frightening and expensive.
Women resorted to dangerous methods, such as douching with dangerous solutions like lye, or swallowing strong drugs or chemicals, inserting knitting needles or coat hangers into the vagina and uterus.
The coat hanger has become a symbol of the desperation of millions of women who have risked death to end a pregnancy. Some women died of widespread abdominal infections.
Many who recovered found themselves sterile or chronically and painfully ill. The enormous emotional stress often lasted a long time.
In Northern Ireland the 1861 Offences Against the Persons Act makes abortion illegal in most cases and carries a penalty of life imprisonment.
In Northern Ireland more than 100 women signed a letter openly
confirming they took illegal abortion pills that they bought on the internet from pro-choice charities. They risk imprisonment.
Several men who helped women obtain the pills also signed the letter, even though it’s a serious offence in Northern ireland to help someone procure an abortion.
In the Republic of Ireland the 2013 Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act allow for abortions only when a woman’s life is under threat if her pregnancy continues or if she is suicidal. She must suffer
Today, in the USA and almost all European states
abortion is available on request up to around 12 weeks and even much later if doctors agree the foetus is suffering from a genetic deficiency or to preserve the physical and mental health of the mother.
Even Italy, with the Vatican situated right in the midst of its capital agrees with this.
And has done so since the late 1970s.
In 1975 the Irish Republican Socialist Party
was the first political party in Ireland to support a woman’s right to control her own body and choose abortion. Almost 40 years later the IRSP is still calling for immediate legislation to make abortion available, free of charge and on demand, through the health services on both sides of the border.
No matter what the law of the land is, a woman will never have an abortion if she is convinced her religious beliefs forbid it.
Why should people who do not share those religious beliefs be forced to live by those principles?
Why should those beliefs limit another person’s freedom to choose or add distress to the choice and make it cost thousands of euros?
Why are religious principles more important than living, breathing, working women?
Women of Ireland