The Impacts of Northern Ireland’s Abortion Laws on Women’s Decision-making and Experiences Accessing Abortion by Travelling Abroad or Self-managing Using Online Telemedicine

Abigail R. A. Aiken , University of Texas at Austin
Kathleen Broussard, University of Texas at Austin
Dana Johnson, University of Texas at Austin
Elisa Padron, University of Texas at Austin

In Northern Ireland, abortion is a criminal offense punishable by life in prison. Between April 2017 and February 2018, we conducted 30 semi-structured interviews with Northern Irish women who traveled abroad to access abortion at a clinic or self-managed at home using online telemedicine. We identified four main themes: 1) Women experience multiple barriers to clinic access, even when travel and abortion costs are covered; 2) Self-management is often preferred over travel, but criminalization engenders fear and isolation; 3) Obstruction of abortion medications by Northern Irish Customs contributes to anxiety, risk of complications, and trial of ineffective or unsafe methods; 4) Lack of clarity surrounding the obligations of Northern Irish healthcare professionals causes mistrust of the healthcare system. Following the impact of evidence on the Republic of Ireland's referendum to legalize abortion, we offer new perspectives to inform policy debate in Northern Ireland and a public health rationale for decriminalization.

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 Presented in Session 53. Fertility, Family Planning, and Reproductive Health: Policy and Government Intervention