Parliamentary Hearing on Polish Abortion Tourism reveals the need for Change of Anti-Abortion Law. Polish restrictive 1993’s anti abortion law permitting abortions only if pregnancy results from criminal offence or the life of the mother was seriously threatened or if there was severe deformation of the fetus. The introduction of the law didn’t influence the reduction of number of abortion but led to development of abortion underground and abortion tourism.

The issue of abortion tourism was a topic of parliamentary hearing organized by Federation for Women and Family Planning. Invited guests, RH practitioners from Austria, Germany, the Netherlands , and UK highlighted one of the central characteristic of the phenomenon. In highly restrictive situations, class and socio-economic status play a huge role in whether or not a woman can access safe abortion. Only women who have financial resources can go to Western countries to obtain abortion. It is estimated that some 80, 000 – 200, 000 women undergo illegal abortion every year, and approximately 30, 000 women choose to cross the border in order to undergo a legal procedure. Although statistical data regarding abortion tourism, numbers provided by the speakers suggest the scale of the problem: for example, 400 abortions have been performed on Polish patients this year in German clinic near Polish border. The participants of the hearing underlined that the current abortion law is completely inadequate to meet the needs of women and girls seeking safe abortion care. Therefore, pregnant women and girls who are able to do are virtually forced to become abortion tourists. Although the term is often used in sexist and disparaging ways, what it really points to is that women’s reproductive health needs are being ignored. Women are too frequently being deprived of their right to access safe, compassionate, and professional abortion services close to home.


By Marie-Louise Gumuchian

DUBLIN (Reuters) – Minutes after the test revealed she was pregnant, Amy saw only one option — to leave Ireland and have an abortion in Britain.

Her architect partner had lost his job in Ireland’s property crash and she was worried about hers, so the 29 year-old office assistant felt she had no choice.

“We found it hard enough to finance the abortion,” said Amy, who declined to give her full name because of the sensitive subject. “So how could we effectively support a child?”

Women’s activists say Ireland’s deep economic crisis may have driven more women to consider an abortion. But a growing number cannot afford to travel to Britain for the procedure and may be forced into the hands of underground abortionists.

A year later, Amy has not told her parents. Growing up in mainly Roman Catholic Ireland, abortion was taboo and she recalls how women rumored to have had one were shamed.

“Abortion was a no-no then, and still is now,” she said.

Terminating a pregnancy has long been a fraught issue in Ireland, where one of the strictest abortion laws in Europe allows it only when the mother’s life is in danger.

Women who have an abortion still face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, driving thousands abroad each year, mainly to Britain. Even that is a little more liberal than before a 1992 referendum which gave women the freedom to receive abortion information and travel abroad to terminate pregnancies.

Today, following the former ‘Celtic Tiger’s’ slide from boom to bust, Amy is not alone in seeking that route, although statistical evidence is hard to find.

Last year, 15 percent of the 1,300 women who visited the Dublin Well Women Center cited financial problems as the main reason for seeking information on terminating a pregnancy.

“Financial pressure might have always affected a women’s decision around whether she continued with her pregnancy but in the last year there was some sort of shift in the priorities,” Alison Begas, chief executive of the center, said.

“She would say she had lost her job, or her salary had been cut or even those for whom the guy has lost his job.”


Ireland crawled out of the longest recession of any euro zone country in the first quarter of this year, but sustained economic recovery is some way off.

Ann Rossiter, a London-based Irish author who for years helped Irish women seek terminations in Britain, has warned that the credit crunch could bring a return to illegal abortions.

Abortions in UK clinics start from 350 pounds ($551). There are also travel costs. “I see no reason why we wouldn’t have a return to the backstreet or self-induced abortions,” she said.

Between 1980 and end-2009, at least 142,060 women traveled for abortion services in England and Wales, according to the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA).

Last year, 4,422 women providing Irish addresses had terminations in England and Wales, British figures show, down 178 on 2008. Numbers have fallen since 2001.

But IFPA says the figures are an underestimate as not everyone wants to provide their address for confidentiality reasons, and women also travel to the Netherlands.

“I think what makes it tougher is the stigma,” said Mara Clarke, of the UK-based Abortion Support Network. “(Abortion) is one of the most commonly performed medical procedures.”

Women in Catholic Poland also face strict laws. Official statistics show several hundred abortions performed annually but pro-choice campaigners estimate hundreds of thousands are performed underground or abroad, sometimes in poor conditions.

Traditionally Catholic Spain has changed its law making it easier for women to have a termination but some conservative-led regions have refused to allow their hospitals to perform them.


In decades of debate in Ireland both pro-choice and pro-life campaigners have had their victories.

A March YouGov poll for British sexual health consultants Marie Stopes showed 78 percent of those questioned supported abortion if the pregnancy endangers a woman’s health or is the result of sexual abuse, rape or incest.

A month later, a poll for the Pro-Life Campaign showed support for a continued ban, with 70 percent in favor of constitutional protection for the unborn child.

“People in Ireland just don’t want abortion to be introduced, and that’s very clear from the polls,” Cora Sherlock of the Pro-Life Campaign, said. “It’s not really an issue, because people are happy with the status quo.”

Ireland is defending its abortion law at the European Court of Human Rights, countering a legal challenge by three women who said it endangered their health and violated their rights. The two Irishwomen and a Lithuanian living in Ireland went to Britain for abortions.

“I think it could be the case that gets the political system really focused on trying to resolve the issue,” said Niall Behan, chief executive of IFPA, which supports the women.

While the court is unlikely to rule on the substance of Ireland’s abortion law, it could say it is deficient in respecting the right to private life of those concerned, said Adam McAuley, a law lecturer at Dublin City University.

But he sees no immediate change. “The state will probably dilly-dally, I can’t see it being quick,” he said.

“The reality is (politicians) can just see votes being lost on this rather than being gained.”

Rossiter knows it will take more than a court case for change. She has performed a one-woman-show, “Making a Holy Show of Myself, An Abortion Monologue”, to select Irish audiences.

“I got weary of the usual format of presenting talks on the abysmal state of Irish women’s reproductive rights,” she says in a flyer for her show. “But I am not hanging up my spurs to retire to one of God’s waiting rooms just yet.”

A majority of gynaecologists in Northern Ireland do not support abortion law as it stands, a new academic survey has shown. The research, conducted at Middlesex University, involved interviews with 37 out of the 42 practising gynaecologists in Northern Ireland, and revealed that 57% support liberalising current abortion law, with many willing to carry out abortion under certain circumstances.

The data, which was published earlier this year, shows that 70% would be willing to perform terminations on grounds of foetal abnormality, while 68% agreed that abortion should be legal in cases of rape. The author of the paper, Colin Francome, said, ‘This is the second study I have carried out looking at the views of gynaecologists in Northern Ireland. This shows that the vast majority agree with the opinion that I also hold that the situation for women with an unwanted pregnancy is very unfair.’

Dr. Audrey Simpson, OBE, Director of fpa Northern Ireland, adds, ‘A woman’s right to choose cannot continue to be ignored. It’s time to stop pretending that Northern Ireland women are different from women in the rest of the UK. The simple fact is they are not. When faced with an unplanned or crisis pregnancy they deserve and have a right to access health care services that are freely available in the rest of the UK.’

Find out more at Abortion Review or visit the fpa website for information on their Time for Change campaign.

Women in Wales are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain abortions quickly in the country, forcing many to either look for new places to have the procedure done early or have a later abortion.

Wales Online reports:

With new statistics showing one in 36 16 to 19-year-olds in Wales having had a pregnancy terminated, teenagers are being forced to wait for up to a month.

And experts warn a lack of provision is forcing girls to look for services other than their local GP.

The number of abortions carried out in Wales is actually in decline.

But, with only one specialist clinic in the country – in Cardiff – many young women are having to wait until much later in their pregnancy to get an abortion.

“Girls are staying pregnant for much longer than they want to. If they go to their GP at nine or 10 weeks, the doctor has to then refer them for a consultation with the NHS, which may take another three or four weeks before an appointment is available.

“And then they won’t get the treatment immediately.”

Later terminations can sometimes increase the chance for complications, but of course, those who are against abortion think forcing teens to wait is just fine.  GP David Bailey, chairman of the Welsh GP’s Committee said things are moving just fast enough.  “I think you should have at least a week’s cooling off period between one part of the process and the next.”

MARIA Abortion Fund for Social Justice

For the last 80 years abortion throughout most of Mexico has been highly restricted to only a handful of indications such as in case of rape, if the life or health of the woman is at risk or for fetal malformations. Even today, most states do not have procedures or protocols for providing abortion care to women within the existing indications. In 2007, Mexico City became the exception by decriminalizing abortion up to 12 weeks of gestation.

Abortion in most Mexican states is a matter of social justice since wealthy women can pay for private providers or travel to Mexico City or outside of the country while poor women are forced to risk their health and lives in back-alley abortions. The MARIA Abortion Fund for Social Justice was founded in order to help precisely these women.

The MARIA Abortion Fund for Social Justice was founded in 2009 by the Mexican organization Balance: Promoción para el Desarrollo y Juventud. The Fund is a member of the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF), based in the United States.

The Funds’s objectives are to:

– Provide financial support to women that do not have enough resources to access legal abortion services available in Mexico City.

– Provide accompaniment to women that request it.

– Increase awareness about women’s right to legal abortion,

– Strengthen solidarity among women that believe and defend women’s right to a legal abortion.

For women that are eligible to receive support, the Fund provides:

Transportation to and from Mexico City

Transportation within Mexico City

Lodging in Mexico City

Scheduling of the abortion appointment

Total or partial payment for the abortion procedure

Accompaniment and counseling

Informative materials

MARIA receives funding from three sources:

-Small foundation grants or organizational donations

-Women who have received support from the Fund

-Individual donors who support the Fund’s work.

If you are interested in supporting the MARIA Abortion Fund’s work and becoming part of our individual donors network please write to us at or make a donation in Mexican Pesos today using Paypal (Please check the exchange rate before donating:

If you would like to receive more information about the MARIA Abortion Fund or are interested in volunteering to accompany women, please contact us at or 01800 8327311 ó (00152)52435054 in Mexico.

by Daniela Pastrana

By 5:00 AM, dozens of women are already lined up outside of this clinic in the Mexican capital. Most come with their mothers, sisters, husbands, friends or boyfriends. A few show up alone.

Sitting on the sidewalk, the women and the people accompanying them try to catch a few winks, in spite of the cold, before dawn breaks and numbers are handed out to the lucky ones. Only the first 30 will be seen today. The rest will have to come back another day.

There are 15 public hospitals in the federal district of the capital that offer safe, legal abortions, but the Beatriz Velasco Reproductive Health Clinic has carried out one-quarter of such procedures since first trimester abortion was legalised by the Mexico City legislature in April 2007.

“The men are great at bringing them here, but not at taking responsibility for supporting their children,” a mother accompanying her young daughter before dawn remarks to IPS.

Standing behind her in the queue, an office worker says this is the third time she’s tried to get a turn, and that no one in her family or at her job knows she’s pregnant.

“No matter what they say, there’s still a lot of prejudice, and they do stigmatise you,” says the young woman.

“We already have two kids, and this year we both lost our jobs, so I just don’t see any other option,” another woman, whose husband’s arm is around her shoulders, says brusquely.

In the last three years, some 65,000 women have visited public health facilities to find out about abortions, and 40,000 have undergone the procedure, the Mexico City health secretariat reported this month.

Of that total, 1,200, or three percent of the cases, came from outside the greater Mexico City area from other states.

Nearly half of these, 550, were able to travel to the capital to get a safe, legal abortion over the last year thanks to the support of a group of young women who work in the Fondo de Aborto para la Justicia Social MARÍA (MARÍA Abortion Fund for Social Justice).

MARÍA (the group’s acronym for Women, Abortion, Reproduction, Information and Accompaniment) was founded in May 2009 to provide information, support and financial assistance to women outside greater Mexico City who want an abortion.

“The aim is to get the Federal District law to reach out farther,” Oriana López, director of operations of MARÍA, told IPS.

MARÍA forms part of the National Network of Abortion Funds, an umbrella group for local abortion funds mainly in the United States, and receives financing from Mexican reproductive health groups.

Since December it has also been building a network of individual donors, who now number just over 200, that has helped give the project financial stability. The organisation has even set up a PayPal account for donations.

The aim of the group now is to give some training to the people who accompany the women to get an abortion, who presently provide “basically logistical support.”

“The concept that this is a right is still very weak,” said López. “Women feel it, more than they actually understand it; it’s like there’s a discrepancy between what they believe and what is right, and what they’ve been told.”

According to the Mexico City government, which has been in the hands of the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) since 1997, 83 percent of the abortions that have been carried out were medically induced using abortifacient drugs, 12 percent were performed using vacuum aspiration, and five percent were done by dilation and curettage.

The law legalising abortion in the capital triggered a wave of legal counter-reforms pushed by the most conservative sectors of society in Mexico, led by the local Catholic Church hierarchy and right-wing political leaders, which tightened already strict state legislation against abortion.

As a result, in 18 of Mexico’s 31 states, abortion is now illegal even when the mother’s life is at risk, in cases of rape or incest, or in cases of fetal malformation.


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. (more…)

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