As part of their campaign for a Yes vote in the upcoming referendum on the 8th Amendment, Amnesty International have published a number of position papers on key issues in the referendum.
In their paper ‘The impact of travel’, Amnesty outline how travelling for an abortion can be a distressing and traumatic experience for many people.
Every day, at least 10 people travel from Ireland to have an abortion overseas. Many of these people go to countries like the UK or The Netherlands.
The 8th Amendment does not stop people in Ireland from accessing abortion. Irish people have a constitutional right to travel to access abortion overseas. However, those same people would face a 14 year prison sentence if they were to access abortion in Ireland. Amnesty have said that recognising the right to travel for something that is illegal at home is contradictory.
Amnesty International argue that Ireland are outsourcing healthcare that people should be able to access at home to places like the UK, and that the 8th Amendment causes harm by forcing these people to travel.
Arranging travel for an abortion adds to the stress that a person experiences when deciding to have a termination.
It is illegal for doctors in Ireland to make referrals to clinics or hospitals outside of Ireland, meaning the pregnant person has to find a clinic and make the appointment themselves. Doctors are also not allowed to send medical files to the clinic, meaning the doctors overseas will not have a full medical history when caring for the patient. This can especially be a problem for those who have complex health problems.
In addition to this, people travelling will have to arrange things like flights, accommodation, time off work, and childcare if they already have children at home. This becomes even more difficult for those who can’t travel because they can’t afford to, because of a disability, because of their migrant status, if they are in care, or for a number of other reasons.
Travel and mental health
Being forced to travel can lead to feelings of stigma and shame for those who do it. Many of those who travel say they feel like a criminal, especially because they would face a 14 year sentence if they were to access the exact same service at home.
Travelling can have a financial, emotional, and physical cost to those who go abroad for an abortion, adding to the anxiety and stress many people already feel.
Post-abortion care is available in Ireland to anyone who has travelled for an abortion, but many people are worried about attending these services because they fear they will be judged or that they might be reported to the police – this is not the case, but it still prevents many people from accessing post-abortion services.
Fatal Foetal Anomalies (FFA)
For people who have received a diagnosis of fatal foetal anomaly, travelling can be even more distressing. Many people choose not to continue with their pregnancies, knowing that their baby will not survive. In these cases, the only way the pregnant person can have a termination is if they travel. This can be an incredibly difficult time for people, and travelling adds to this stress.
Travel creates more problems
Forcing people to travel for a termination is not a solution. Having to travel simply creates further problems, including financial burdens, emotional stress, and later-term abortions by delaying how soon a person can access a clinic.
Amnesty International are calling for a Yes vote so that pregnant people in Ireland no longer need to travel for abortion care.
Read the full position paper here.