Objectives: We examined experiences of women who travel from the Republic of Ireland to the UK for abortion care. Irish women’s experiences are poorly understood. Publically shared stories tend to highlight cases of tragic circumstances (e.g., foetal anomalies, minors), eclipsing more ordinary circumstances for seeking abortion. We collected data about experiences of the latter group by using a systematic qualitative research approach.
Methods: Qualitative data were collected using In-Depth Interviews (IDIs) with 25 Irish women who traveled to Liverpool and London for abortion care between February and June 2017. Participants were Irish citizens or permanent residents and received surgical or medical abortion. We excluded minors and foetal anomaly cases. Participants’ age ranged from 19 to 43 years old; 18 of 25 participants were in their 20s. Their reported gestational age was between 6 and 19 weeks. IDIs followed a 13-item Interview Guide with semistructured probes. Topics included: arranging travel, challenges, support network, delays, and privacy.
Results: Data reveal significant hardships in women’s experiences traveling abroad for abortion care, including difficulties arranging travel in an “environment of secrecy” despite readily available information online, maintaining privacy in social and professional circles while waiting to travel, financial constraints, getting time off work, and securing overnight childcare. Financial barriers may lead women to intentionally schedule later appointments to allow time to organize money. Women who borrowed money reported getting bank loans of 900-1500 Euro. Additionally, the use and location tracking capabilities of social media (Facebook, Snapchat, etc.) may generate added stress about retaining privacy in abortion travel.
Conclusion: Irish women who travel for abortion care to the UK overcome significant financial, social, and employment difficulties in a burdensome environment of secrecy in order to pursue abortion services abroad. This study highlights the need to liberalize access to abortion care in Ireland.