The IFPA provides confidential and non-directive pregnancy counselling services to women who are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, or a pregnancy which has become a crisis, and their partners. We support a woman’s choice about her pregnancy in all cases, whether that choice is abortion, parenting or adoption. In our written submission to the Citizens’ Assembly, we developed case vignettes to illustrate the wide range of reasons why women seek abortion and the barriers they face in doing so.
Cecile attends pregnancy counselling with her husband, Adam. She speaks little English. She has become pregnant after her contraception failed. Adam and Cecile have applied for asylum in Ireland and are currently living in the direct provision system while they await the outcome of their application. They live in an accommodation centre outside Cork city and share a single room with their two young children. They do not have the right to work in Ireland, so the only income they have is a weekly personal allowance of €19.10 per adult and €15.60 per child.
The couple do not want to continue the pregnancy in these circumstances. Cecile is anxious to end the pregnancy as soon as possible. Until they spoke to other residents in their accommodation centre, they had no idea abortion was not available in Ireland.
An IFPA pregnancy counsellor explains the law on abortion in Ireland and the steps Cecile will have to go through in order to access an abortion outside Ireland. If Cecile wishes to terminate her pregnancy, she will need to travel abroad to access abortion services. She will have to seek permission to leave the accommodation centre and return again, and apply for an exceptional needs payment from her community welfare officer to cover the expenses.
As Cecile is undocumented and without a passport, she will need to apply for a temporary travel document (€80). She will then need to apply for a re-entry visa (€60) from the Department of Justice and a visa from the country to which she will be travelling (€60-100, depending on country). Both are located in Dublin, so they’ll have expenses for the trip from Cork to organise these. It can take more than eight weeks to organise all this documentation.
In addition to the cost of the travel documents, the couple will also need to pay for flights, accommodation and the abortion procedure itself. An abortion procedure can cost €600 to €2000, depending on the clinic and the stage of gestation.
Cecile is horrified that she will have to disclose her situation to all of these agencies, and dismayed at the huge financial cost involved.
The couple tell the counsellor they will try to apply for the necessary travel documents. They return to the IFPA some weeks later. The economic and legal barriers to accessing a safe abortion proved insurmountable for them. Cecile tells the counsellor she feels she has no other option but to continue the pregnancy and parent against her wishes.
*Cecile's account is not based on any one individual, but draws on the experiences of a number of women who have been in contact with IFPA services.
Download the IFPA's submission to the Citizens' Assembly.