Economic crisis rekindles Irish debate on abortion

Wed Aug 11, 2010 7:25am EDT
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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.   Continued...