Economic hardship might be leading more Irish women to seek abortions and obtain the procedure illegally because they cannot afford to travel to Britain, where abortion is legal, Reuters reports. Ireland, a mainly Catholic nation, permits abortion only when a woman’s life is in jeopardy. The policy is one of the strictest in Europe, and women who violate the law can face life in prison. Since 1992, Ireland has allowed women to receive abortion information and travel abroad to obtain the procedure. According to the Irish Family Planning Association, between 1980 and 2009, at least 142,060 women obtaining abortion services in England and Wales provided Irish addresses, although the actual total is likely higher because some women decline to provide addresses, or seek abortions in the Netherlands. An abortion costs about 350 pounds, or $551, in the United Kingdom, not including travel costs.
Concrete statistics about women’s reasons for obtaining an abortion are difficult to obtain, but anecdotal evidence from employees in women’s health clinics suggests that financial considerations are playing a role for more Irish women who seek the procedure. According to Reuters, Ireland has faced the longest recession “of any Euro zone country,” and despite an improvement in the nation’s finances during the first quarter of 2010, “sustained economic recovery is some way off.”
Ireland is defending its abortion policy at the European Court of Human Rights, where it has been challenged by three women who say it endangered their health and violated their rights (Gumuchian, Reuters, 8/11).