Monday 28th of September is International Safe Abortion Day, which the Abortion Rights Campaign will mark this year with a Virtual March for Choice Friday 25th – Sunday 27th September 2020. This year’s theme is #CareAtHome.
Early medical abortion is safe and effective. But like most medications, it doesn’t work every time. In 98 out of 100 cases, medical abortions succeed. That means two out of every 100 patients may have a failed abortion. When early medical abortion fails and a person’s pregnancy continues past 12 weeks, they are being denied #CareAtHome here in Ireland.
Back in March 2019, Dr Caitríona Henchion of the Irish Family Planning Association flagged this issue:
“So far, we certainly haven’t been in the situation that somebody discovered that there was an ongoing pregnancy over 12 weeks, but I do think that probably will ultimately happen. Statistically speaking it is probably likely.”
Her prediction has repeatedly proved true. Since 2019, Abortion Support Network (ASN) has helped at least 25 Irish residents obtain abortion care in England after a failed medical abortion. Two of these clients had each endured two failed medical abortions. These are just the clients who told them the reason why they needed help – ASN don’t ask.
ASN shared these examples of clients they’ve helped:
- May 2019 –
- A woman who had two failed early medical abortions in Ireland, who then, over the 12 week legal limit, was told her pregnancy had foetal indications (but apparently not serious enough to warrant an abortion in Ireland). She travelled to England to have an abortion, but was told she had a medical condition that required hospital treatment. The only hospital that was willing to provide her with care quoted charges of more than £2000. ASN was able to help them cover some of the costs as well as paying for accommodation for the six days she and her partner were required to stay in England.
- Another woman who had a failed early medical abortion in Ireland but did not learn that it had failed until she was 13 weeks pregnant. She and her partner were able to raise some funds for travel and the procedure as well as find someone to watch their children while they travelled. ASN provided a grant of £275.
- September 2019 – A woman who wrote: “Hi, I need to travel to London next week for an abortion but I have problem with money. I took abortion pills in Ireland which didn’t work and then I was 13 weeks so my GP said I have to go to England. The costs will be way more than I can afford so I was hoping you can help me. My passport expired so I have been waiting for the new one and I am now 16 weeks. Please help me.” ASN funded €600 of her procedure.
- October 2019 – Yet another client who had a medical abortion (in an Irish hospital) which failed, meaning she then had to travel to England at her own expense. When she asked about continuing the pregnancy, she was told that the foetus might have abnormalities from the medication she’d been given to cause an abortion. The initial clinic she booked into was in a city where there was an event that caused flight costs to soar.
And two more ASN examples from the first half of this year. One woman, in February, was instructed to travel to England for an abortion after the tablets her GP supplied failed. She and her partner took the ferry as she is deathly afraid of flying. Another woman, in May, during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- A woman from Ireland who was twice given early medical abortions in Ireland, and both times it failed. Since this brought her over 12 weeks into her pregnancy, Ireland turned its back on her and told her she had to travel abroad, at her own expense, to terminate the pregnancy. ASN were able to book her flights and accommodation, as well as provide a grant towards the cost of the procedure.
“Leaving women and pregnant people to their own ends to travel across country borders to complete a failed medical treatment is a shocking form of state-compelled medical negligence,” said Mara Clarke, founder of Abortion Support Network. “What concerns me even more is that the 25 or so people who have contacted us are only those we know about! There could be more people who did not know there was financial support available to them. This is a massive failing in Ireland’s abortion care system. Not only should these people receive their care in Ireland, but once a medical abortion fails, a surgcal procedure should be offered as a matter of course.”
No one should have to endure the stress, expense, and logistical challenges of travelling abroad to complete medical treatment they legally initiated in Ireland – not during a pandemic, not ever.
We voted for care and compassion. Talk to your TD today about these real examples, as they may not be aware of this issue, and let them know you want #CareAtHome for anyone who experiences a failed medical abortion in Ireland.