MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Wed 10-Jun-15 11:49:35

Guest post: Abortion Support Network - "In Ireland, motherhood is the punishment for poverty"

It's Giving Week at MNHQ, and we're going to be hearing from each of the five charities chosen by you. Today, it's the Abortion Support Network, a tiny charity helping women in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man access safe abortions. Do give what you can, and Mumsnet will match your donations to a total of £25,000.

Share this on Facebook, and tweet using the hashtag #MNGiving to help us spread the word.

Mara Clarke

Abortion Support Network

Posted on: Wed 10-Jun-15 11:49:35

(203 comments )

Lead photo

"Parenting is an important, fulfilling and difficult job, and not a role that should be forced on someone."

What would you do if the condom broke? If you were pregnant as result of rape? If you had three children but no job? If your wanted pregnancy was diagnosed with a fatal anomaly? What if you lived in a country where abortion is against the law?

"Please help. I've tried everything to try to miscarry... I've been drinking excessively, I've tried throwing myself down stairs, and even tried to overdose. I can't have this child. I don't want it!" – ASN client

In both Northern Ireland (despite being part of the UK) and the Republic of Ireland, abortion is almost completely illegal. And as studies have shown, making abortion illegal doesn't stop or even reduce the incidence of abortion. It just stops safe abortion. Or put another way, for those across the Irish seas faced with an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, women and couples with money have options, and women and couples without money have babies, or take dangerous and desperate measures.

Abortion Support Network is a tiny charity that provides practical information on how to arrange the least expensive abortion and travel, financial assistances towards the cost of abortion and travel, and accommodation in volunteer homes to women forced to travel from Ireland and Northern Ireland for abortions. ASN does this with a mobile phone, a website, a database, one part-time employee, dozens of volunteers, and amazing individuals who give us money.

We do this is because we think being a parent is an important, fulfilling and difficult job, and not a role that should be forced on someone who doesn't want it. Parenting shouldn't be meted out as punishment to people who have non-procreative sex, but not £400-£2,000 in the bank.

"I used to have a job but it's so expensive to have someone mind the children. My partner has only been able to find work sporadically and we've been rationing food for the kids and have had the electricity turned off we're so short of money. We borrowed money for the flights and that money will need to be paid back too."

Women and couples with money have options, and women and couples without money have babies, or take dangerous and desperate measures.


There is no typical woman who needs an abortion. ASN has heard from women as old as 51 and girls as young as 13. Women in or escaping abusive relationships, women pregnant as result of rape, women with serious mental or physical health issues. Women with children, women with grandchildren, women with no children. Married couples who felt they had enough children already. Students wanting to continue their educations rather than their pregnancies.

What did these people all have in common? They were pregnant. They didn't want to be pregnant. They are poor. And they never in a million years thought they'd be calling a stranger in England to ask for money to pay for an abortion.

"I was raped last month but never did anything about it as I blamed myself. I have now discovered I'm pregnant. I can't possibly bring a child into this world at this time in my life and I would rather die than go through with this pregnancy. I need to have an abortion but I haven't got the money."

All of the obstacles placed in front of women forced to travel for abortion care mean that very often, they are later in term. While fewer than 1.4% of abortions performed in the UK take place between 20 and 24 weeks gestation, at least 7% of ASN's clients need abortions at that stage. This is due to the delays caused by needing to raise funds, apply for passports, or, even more time-consuming, visas. Tragically, more than ten ASN clients have arrived in England only to find that they are over the legal limit for a termination – sometimes by as little as one day.

"I have several children including one who is quite ill. My husband abandoned us and I've never left my children before. I was saving up the money but am now past 14 weeks which means the price has gone up from £350 to £600, which seems impossible. If I am not able to do this before I am 18 weeks and six days the cost doubles to over £1,300. I just cannot see any way to do this. I had no idea that women in Ireland had to go through this."

ASN is a small organisation trying to alleviate an enormous problem. The Department of Health may be reporting falling numbers of women travelling to England for abortions, but calls to Abortion Support Network have increased year on year, from 89 in our first full year to 552 in 2014, an increase of 520%.

"I have two very young children and the youngest was diagnosed with a severe disability. I am so scared this baby will have the same or worse and either way I can’t handle caring for another child."

The women and couples who contact ASN are the living embodiment of the cost of making abortion illegal. We don't ask how a pregnancy occurred or why an abortion is wanted. We don't even ask if the caller is a woman. Our only criteria for funding is financial need and whether or not we have money in the bank. Abortion Support Network is a sticking plaster on this situation, not a solution. While groups like Abortion Rights Campaign Ireland and Alliance for Choice campaign for much needed law reform, we are providing women with the help they need most immediately: money.

"I never understood before how being able to have an abortion could be empowering, but now I do".

By Mara Clarke

Twitter: @AbortionSupport

EducateTogetheralumnus Wed 10-Jun-15 12:53:53

Bravo MNHQ. This is a fabulous charity that does hugely important work that it shouldn't have to. I've heard Mara say before that she wishes they didn't have to exist.

Roll on the day when it can close down safe in the knowledge that Irish women and their right to determine what happens to their body are valued equally to men.

Enormouse Wed 10-Jun-15 13:13:06

Thank you MNHQ for making this one of your chosen charities for giving week.

They are wonderful and supported me when I was at my lowest and helped me access an abortion in England.

A tiny charity should not be filling the gap left by the government in their failure to provide for their women. I look forward to the day ASN can close down, safe in the knowledge irish and northern irish woman can access legal abortions at home.

BobbyGentry Wed 10-Jun-15 14:17:20

Ballsy-Bob, do not agree with the title, "In Ireland, motherhood is the punishment for poverty" (motherhood=punishment for impoverishment) but support a charity of pro-choice.

Postino Wed 10-Jun-15 16:13:48

Thanks for highlighting this charity MN. I wish them every success with their fundraising.

ASNMara Wed 10-Jun-15 16:36:12

Enormous, we love you. This all came about because of you, you wonderful brave woman.

Enormouse Wed 10-Jun-15 16:47:00

blush <goes off to hide somewhere>

I'm glad to be able to use what I had to go through to help others. Even if that was just by not shutting up about it or being ashamed.

I want ASN to be able to help as many women as possible till the law changes.

IssyStark Wed 10-Jun-15 16:58:41

Enormouse is indeed a fantastic person and I can safely say that without her work to highlight the ASN, this particular Ulsterwoman would not have heard of them and would not now be supporting them with a monthly donation (anyone else can do that here if you're interested).

I was lucky when my baby was diagnosed with a fatal foetal abnormality at the 12 week scan: I lived in England and the NHS rushed into action to provide me with a safe and timely abortion, had I still lived in the land of my birth I may well have been forced to carry to term and watch my baby die within hours or have an induced labour due to foetal death.

Mara, I hope with my heart that you will out of a job sooner rather than later grin

PolterGoose Wed 10-Jun-15 18:22:53

I'm so pleased ASN was chosen for this, well done to Enormouse for highlighting this on MN star

heather1 Wed 10-Jun-15 21:47:03

And the lives, as valid and important as the lives of the mothers who are carrying them inside their wombs. What of those lives? Are they not important too. Do they have no value.
These lives are smaller, defenceless, without a voice. They are still alive.
They are innocent babies.
They need our protection.
I for one am horrified that this charity has been chosen by Mumnet.
The women of Ireland should be providing more support for women, their families and their unborn children who are pregnant in difficult, and often traumatic situations. This charity is a provider of death masquerading as caring for women.
Mumsnet by matching donations this shows clearly where you really are in the abortion question. A disaster for the young lives that will be ended as a result of your decision to support this organisation.

jorahmormont Wed 10-Jun-15 22:19:57

Mumsnet by matching donations this shows clearly where you really are in the abortion question

Yes, it shows that they are pro-women and pro-choice, and not pro-dictating what women can do with their own bodies.

All this anti-choice rhetoric masquerading as "what about the poor little innocent baby" only exists to demean and demonise women who have had abortions.

Don't turn this thread into an abortion debate, heather. I am so pleased that Mumsnet has chosen this charity, it is so important to so many women and I too hope that the powers that be in Ireland will wake up and mean that charities like this no longer need to exist.

tribpot Wed 10-Jun-15 22:28:37

Actually it was Mumsnetters, rather than Mumsnet, that chose to support the ASN. It was voted for by a significant number of us.

PolterGoose Wed 10-Jun-15 22:43:40

Well said jorah and tribpot flowers

Enormouse Wed 10-Jun-15 22:55:46

Unless the pro choice lobby are going to come into my house and offer me viable, tangible help (financial, physical and emotional) with raising what would have been 3 children under 4, one of them with a global developmental delay and severely delayed speech they will get no creedence or consideration in my decision making process.

I will not be made to feel guilty for what I did. And other women in Ireland and northern Ireland do not deserve to be made to feel guilty.

Disgusting, that ASN must exist but thank God they do.

Enormouse Wed 10-Jun-15 22:58:40

Sorry, I meant pro life/ anti abortion there. I got annoyed and mixed it up.

I agree with jorah and tribpot too.

lastuseraccount123 Wed 10-Jun-15 22:58:47

thanks for the heads up Mumsnet. i will support this charity for sure

themightyfandango Wed 10-Jun-15 23:16:49

Well done for highlighting this charity. I will share.

PuffinsAreFictitious Thu 11-Jun-15 04:33:22

I for one am horrified that this charity has been chosen by Mumsnet.

You appear to be in a minority. Most MNetters (including the significant number of them who voted to support ASN) think that women should have choices about their bodies. You are of course free to choose not to support this charity, to support one of the anti woman/anti choice groups out there, or nothing. Isn't having free choice good?

Enormouse you have absolutely nothing at all to feel guilty about. It's thanks to you and TBFA that this wonderful charity has been given the spotlight it deserves.

meglet Thu 11-Jun-15 06:46:00

I'm glad to see this charity being chosen by mn-etters. I can't imagine what women in NI have to go through.

Kampeki Thu 11-Jun-15 07:32:11

I find it shocking, in this day and age, that Ireland needs a charity like this. Women should have control over their own bodies.

Athenaviolet Thu 11-Jun-15 08:01:36

I find it really offensive to have read 'have 3 DCs but no job' as if no DC should be born into that-even comparing it to rape, that's sick!

I'm in that situation but would never think that's a reason for an abortion (and I am pro choice in all circs) but I think saying that 1) is anti larger families- if unemployed women shouldn't have 3dcs how long before the slippery slope before telling us we shouldn't have 1dc? 2) it is assuming that if a woman is unemployed she is a failure and an inadequate mother. That's downright nasty and inaccurate.

WhirlpoolGalaxyM51 Thu 11-Jun-15 08:11:18

she was speaking of her own situation. that is very obvious. don't tell her she's not allowed to do that.

MarrogfromMars Thu 11-Jun-15 09:40:19

Amnesty have a petition to decriminalise abortion in Ireland.

HapShawl Thu 11-Jun-15 11:54:32

I'm another one who had this charity brought to my attention by Enormouse and now make a monthly donation. You and your team do amazing and important work Mara, though it shouldn't be necessary

Viviennemary Thu 11-Jun-15 12:03:10

I'm afraid that I for one disapprove of this charity. I read this morning that quite possibly it is acting illegally.

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