Saturday 18th October 2008. Women from Alliance for Choice held a symbolic protest in the centre of Derry to represent the 40 women who travel from Northern Ireland every week for abortions in Britain.
Alliance for Choice is an organisation that campaigns for the extension of the
1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland. It is made up of women and
men, from both Catholic and Protestant communities in the North of
Ireland, who want to see equality and self-determination for women
here. Alliance for Choice was set up in 1996, emerging from the Women’s Right to
Choose Group, to encourage the incoming Labour government to
implement Labour Party policy to extend the Act.
Much of our work has been about making heard the voices of the tens of
thousands of women from NI who have had abortions in England and
elsewhere since 1967 – thereby exposing the hypocrisy of the
politicians who say there is “no demand for abortion rights” in
If you need to contact a member of “Alliance for Choice” you can do so by Email.
“I suffer from congenital heart disease. After the birth of my third
child, I was told by the cardiologist not to risk any further
pregnancies as ’it would take 15 years off your life’. I
subsequently became pregnant and, because of my religious qualms
about abortion, did not request a termination but carried the
pregnancy to term. I was unwell for several months following that
confinement and never really recovered my full strength.
When I became pregnant again three years later, I feared for my life and
asked about a termination. The obstetric consultant at Altnagelvin
Hospital told me that my life was not in immediate danger and so an
abortion would not be legal. Nonetheless, when I made an appointment
in a British clinic, my doctors here consulted with the medical staff
at the clinic and sent them my notes because my health was so poor.”
”Not the Church not the State women must decide their fate”.
I was aged 25 and my daughter Caroline was almost eight, I went for a
pregnancy test at the LIFE offices. My distress at the positive test
was so great, the counsellor took some time to calm me down. I
explained that Caroline has severe autism and challenging behaviour.
As a lone parent, I was just about managing to keep her in the
community. Another child would mean that Caroline would end up in
care and I wasn’t having that.
The counsellor said that maybe God
was sending me this child ’to make up for Caroline’. This insult to
my darling daughter summed up the ’pro-life’ attitude for me.
Getting respite care for a few days to allow me to go to England was
very difficult, although the all my friends rallied round with money,
so that part wasn’t too bad.
Five years on, Caroline is still at
home with me and her behaviour is greatly improved. If I had
continued that pregnancy, I have no doubt that she would be in care
and much, much worse in her behaviour and abilities.”
was 1993 and my youngest child was 8 years old when I found myself
pregnant again. My marriage had broken up a few years before and my
husband had left me to raise our five children alone with no support,
financial or emotional. I had returned to education as a mature
student and I was in the final year of my degree.
All the struggling
to keep up with home and University was about to pay off. I was just
months away from my final exams. When I told the man I was seeing
that I was pregnant, he just didn’t want to know. He had children of
his own from a previous relationship and wouldn’t be around to help,
no matter what I decided to do.
Even though I was raised a Catholic
and I didn’t agree with abortion, when I was faced with these
circumstances, I felt I had no other choice. It took five weeks from
when I decided to have a termination to raise the money to travel
over. I borrowed money from friends, lying to some and trusting
others with my secret. I had to use the phone-bill money as well, so
we got cut off just before I left for London. N. Ireland is part of
the UK, so I don’t understand why I couldn’t have the abortion here.”
“I really felt so close to insanity when I discovered I was
pregnant. It should have been an ideal time - my son was just two
years old, the perfect time to conceive a sibling. But Michael has
severe brain damage and the prognosis was that he would never walk,
talk, see, hear, get out of nappies. I was already traumatised by
that knowledge and the idea of having another baby - with the danger
that the same thing might happen again - it just terrified me in a
way that I can’t describe. I can say that I understood for the first
time how women can risk their lives using knitting needles or coat
hangers to cause an abortion, because I felt desperate enough to do
I had nightmares that somehow I would be stopped before I got
to England and forced to continue the pregnancy. I was unable to
function for the five weeks I had to wait until I was far enough
along to have a termination. Although I needed him with me, my
partner couldn’t accompany me although he wanted to because someone
had to look after our son; if I had been able to have the termination
in our local hospital, it would have been far easier for the whole
“My son was five years old, I was getting my life back,
had started a training course that would have allowed me to work in a
job that I could fit around my son’s school. I have always been
super-careful about contraception – ever since I had my son. I
don’t know what went wrong but I realised immediately the symptoms
of pregnancy. I thought I would go mad. I couldn’t stop crying. I
just spent my days crying.
I knew immediately that I wanted to go to
England and end the pregnancy but I also knew there was no way I
could get the money together; I find it hard to make ends meet on
Income Support, have nothing left over and I already had a Social
Fund loan, so that was out. I told my parents and they did their best
to get some money for me but they live on benefits themselves since
my father had an accident at work. I managed to get a few hundred
together but it was nowhere near enough. Eventually, a friend phoned
everyone she knew and begged the rest of the money for me. People I
didn’t know, none of them very well off themselves, gave money to a
complete stranger in need. I can never thank them enough.
finished my course now, have a job and am off benefits. I feel I am a
good role model to my son and I have never regretted not going ahead
with a pregnancy that would have ruined both our lives.”