At the end of July, three anti-abortion groups planned to display huge pictures of mangled babies at events on Dame Street in Dublin, and at Belfast and Manchester airports. The groups were refused permission by the authorities to do the same at Dublin and Cork airports. They claimed to want to “show the humanity of the unborn child and expose the horrific reality of abortion which the abortion industry strives to keep hidden from Irish women travelling to England for the procedure”. They described these as “public education displays” in response to the decision by the British government in late July to pay for abortions for Northern Irish women forced to travel to England for a legal abortion.
But the fact is, women travelling to England for abortion know a lot more than anyone else about the reality of abortion. No one who supports access to safe abortion is hiding anything from women. We know what an abortion is; many of us have had one too. What gain is there in putting sick-making pictures in women’s faces except to try to make them feel bad about something they are doing in support of their own lives. Their posters won’t stop someone who needs an abortion. Official figures show that last year, 3,265 women travelled from the Irish Republic to the UK for an abortion, while 724 women travelled from Northern Ireland. The figures at the end of this year are likely to be comparable.