Photo: Feminist Fightback

As parts of the United States tighten their legislation against women’s reproductive rights, Northern Ireland comes to mind. At the Guardian, Amelia Gentleman reports on the harrowing circumstances its residents face if they need to get an abortion. Gentleman spoke to several women who traveled to England, as well as their advocates. According to Kally, an English clinic manager:

“It is very difficult for women from Ireland to come [to England]. 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.”

Abortion in Northern Ireland is lawful only in extremely restricted circumstances, where there is a risk to a pregnant woman’s life or a real and serious risk of long-term damage to her physical or mental health; just 23 legal abortions were carried out on the NHS in 2013-14. Under any other circumstances, a penalty of life imprisonment could be imposed on both the woman undergoing the abortion and anyone assisting her – even if the abortion is sought because of a fatal foetal impairment, for example, or because the pregnancy is the result of rape. This is the harshest criminal penalty for abortion anywhere in Europe.

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