Polish women are being told by a pro choice poster campaign to come to Britain for free NHS (British National Health Service) abortions to avoid strict laws at home. But instead of arguing to make abortion more accessable in the EU, the British press argues against the necessary abortion tourism that women are being force into.
They can take advantage of cheap flights and hotels as part of a poster campaign which features a semi-naked woman with the words ‘my choice’ written across her stomach.
The flyers, which are being distributed by pro choice campaigners in Poland, mimic the Mastercard series of ‘priceless’ adverts. The lender’s campaign features different scenarios such as a first date or trip to the World Cup with various prices alongside.
In the Polish advert, the woman has various slogans around her which translate as: ‘Plane ticket to England at special offer: 300 zloty (£70). Accommodation: 240 zloty (£56). Abortion in a public clinic: 0 zloty.
‘Relief after a procedure carried out in decent conditions – priceless.’
At the bottom of each poster – next to two red and yellow circles similar to the Mastercard logo – is written in Polish ‘For everything, you pay less than an underground abortion in Poland’.
Poland is a strictly Roman Catholic country and women are banned from having a termination unless they have been raped, the baby is likely to be severely handicapped or they are risking their lives by having the child.
Every year thousands of Polish ‘ abortion tourists’ travel to Britain where they can have the procedure for free under EU regulations. As long as they can claim the termination is an ’emergency’, they do not have to pay.
The posters are being distributed by SROM, a feminist group which wants to raise awareness of Polish women’s options.
But instead of celebrateing SROM as heros of female self-determination the issue has raised yet again the issue of so-called ‘health tourism’ in the UK – in which foreigners come to take advantage of the british state-funded health system.
The British Tabloid „Daily Express“ published a huge article in which they estimated abortions by Polish women to cost the NHS £ 200million a year, which was picked up by other newspapers.
But this number seems to be a fast exaggeration. Since 2005, the DoH has published, in its annual abortion statistics, a full breakdown of the number of non-resident abortions provided in England and Wales by the country of origin of the women accessing the service.
In the four years following Poland’s accession to the European Union, a grand total of fifty-nine Polish women had an abortion in England and Wales.
The published statistics don’t provide, if these abortions actually were carried out by the NHS, although, for 2008, the number of privately-funded abortions that took place (16,958) far outstrips the number of non-residents who came to England/Wales to have an abortion (6,862, of which 4,600 came from the Irish Republic and, shamefully, 1,173 came from Northern Ireland).
Even with the increase to 30 abortions in 2008, there were still over four times as many women entering to the UK to access abortion services from the United Arab Emirates than there were Polish migrants.
Nevertheless, alarmed by the accusations of the tabloid news last month ministers said they were considering banning foreigners from the country if they had failed to pay up.
Critics accused the NHS of being too relaxed.
Ann Widdecombe, Tory MP, said: ‘When the Abortion Act was liberalised I said it would turn Britain into the abortion capital of Europe and that seems to be exactly what’s happened. The laws here are far, far too lax.’
Joyce Robins, co-director of Patient Concern, said: ‘When you consider the mess the NHS is in at the moment we can’t afford to treat people who have been paying into it all their lives, let alone women from abroad who want to get rid of unwanted pregnancies.’
A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘The NHS is provided primarily for the benefit of people lawfully resident in the UK.
‘There is no provision in the UK immigration rules for people to come to this country for the purpose of obtaining NHS treatment, and with certain exceptions non-residents are expected to pay for any medical treatment they receive while they are here.’
So instead of arguing to make abortion more accessable in the EU, they argue against the necessary abortion tourism that they force women into…