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Many women in Ireland experience huge challenges in trying to travel out of the State for an abortion. While some of these women manage to access services abroad, others are forced to continue with the pregnancy and parent against their wishes. That’s according to the IFPA's annual report for 2013 released on 16th December.

The report states that from September 2013 to September 2014, 26 migrant women with travel restrictions attended the IFPA’s counselling service and indicated that they wanted an abortion. Of these 26 women, at least 5 were forced to continue with the pregnancy and parent against their wishes. At least 4 were considering, or had taken, the abortion pill. Seventeen women did not return to the IFPA and it is not known if they managed to access abortion services.

Women who cannot travel freely to access abortion services abroad include women asylum seekers, undocumented women, and women who need visas to enter other states.

According to IFPA Chief Executive Niall Behan: “For decades the Government has relied on women being able to leave the State to access abortion services. However, the reality is that many women cannot do so due to legal, financial and other barriers. These women face enormous challenges in obtaining the documentation and funds required to travel.”

“Under Irish law, the entire burden of accessing an abortion abroad falls on women. Last year, some of our clients with travel restrictions managed to overcome the barriers and travel. Some of our clients tried to obtain the abortion pill. However, others had no option but to continue with the pregnancy and parent against their wishes,” added Mr Behan.

The report also highlights that the legal framework on abortion restricts IFPA counsellors in what support they can give to women experiencing difficulties in travelling for abortion.

The report also notes an increase in women aged over 50 attending for sexual health services, including sexually transmitted infection screening and menopause check-ups. Last year also saw an increase in older women attending for pregnancy counselling services, with the number of women aged over 44 more than double compared to 2012.

According to Mr Behan: “While access to comprehensive and affordable sexual and reproductive health care is a right of every person, cost remains a major barrier. It is important that health providers such as the IFPA that operate on a non-profit basis at primary care level are sufficiently resourced to be able to continue to provide services.”

The full report is available to download here.