In March 2021, the Abortion Support Network UK’s helpline heard from 85 people seeking services, which was 15 more than in February, which in turn was 22 more than we heard from in January. Mostly they were from Poland and mostly they were in the later stages of pregnancy. Many were impacted by the Polish Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling that made abortion in cases of fetal anomaly, even fatal anomalies, illegal. These 85 people were in addition to the hundreds of calls and e-mails fielded by our Abortion Without Borders helpline in Poland, and by our partners the Abortion Dream Team in Poland, Ciocia Basia in Germany, Abortion Network Amsterdam and Women Help Women in the Netherlands.
Of the 85 people who contacted ASN in March, 44 were from Poland, 17 were from Ireland, 6 were from Malta and there was one each from Wales, Spain, Brazil, Northern Ireland, Gibraltar, Isle of Man and France. “Abortion Without Borders” indeed! The following are some of their experiences:
“I am 17 weeks pregnant, unfortunately the fetus has a lethal defect syndrome and I need to have it removed. I would like to have the procedure done in the Netherlands, I have about 1,000 Euros at my disposal, can I get financial help with the rest of the costs? I don’t speak the language, and I would like the help of an interpreter. I would like to come with my fiancé, please help me find accommodation for us.”
The mother of a 13-week pregnant Irish teenager rang. They didn’t need financial support but asked for help organising the abortion and travel (due to the pandemic…)
A woman from Poland was prevented from boarding her flight to England because she had forgotten to fill out the UK-required passenger locator form. We were able to get her on another flight, but the second flight transited through the Netherlands, whose Covid-19 testing requirements are different to the UK’s, so we had to arrange an in-airport test, but since it was a rapid test and not a PCR test, the woman was threatened with a large fine (though she wasn’t fined in the end).
“My boyfriend was going to help me with the costs but changed his mind. He says I can have the baby with him in Poland, or if I insist on having an abortion I should earn the money on the street.” This was on top of what felt like a very large number of clients in or escaping abusive relationships.
A client lost the money she planned to spend on travel when the required Covid-19 test came back inconclusive, and she had to get another one. The new test gave a negative result, but meanwhile she had crossed into a more expensive price bracket for the abortion.
“My partner kicked me out of the house with my two children from a previous relationship. I can’t afford to raise another child myself. I am living with my mother but she is ill with no income.”
“The baby has a cerebral hernia and it will most likely be born dead. I have been lied to about the baby’s condition by two doctors so far, and I have therefore been deprived of the right to react more quickly in this matter. I do not know what to do, I have no help from anyone.”
A woman from Malta flew to the UK to get an amniocentesis test, which confirmed her fears that there was something catastrophically wrong with her pregnancy. (Yes, she had to fly to the UK for this test, because in Malta….) When the test results came, she wanted to have the termination as soon as possible rather than have to go home and make a return trip. We were able to help her obtain an appointment within a week.