Continuing abortion tourism in Europe
Maria Francès RN, co-founder and Secretary General of Fiapac
Bloemenhove Kliniek - The Netherlands
There have always been women with an unwanted pregnancy who were forced, by lack of possibilities in their own country, to cross borders, spend money and take risks in order to get what should be their right: a termination of their pregnancy, after all the most performed medical act in the world.
Since the 1970 ‘s the countries – in western Europe - which receive most of these women are the UK, the Netherlands and since some years also Spain, where the implementation of the - not so liberal - law is quite loose.
Although the number of “abortion tourists” has dramatically – in a positive sense – dropped since several countries have liberalized their law (in 1980 26.200 German women came to Holland for an abortion, in 2003 not more than 1254, in 1985 18.000 women came to the UK for an abortion, in 1996 only 66…) there is still a too large number of women who have to undertake this unfair, costly and emotional heavy trip. In the Bloemenhove clinic where I work, the yearly number of patients is about 3300, of which still 60% are coming from abroad. At the same time we may expect an increasing number of women from the eastern part of the European Union with al their specific - for instance financial - problems.
In this short intervention I would like to emphasize one part of the subject: the responsibility towards the woman in demand.
It goes without saying that the first responsible is the woman herself. She has taken the decision not to continue her pregnancy – even if circumstances, financial, emotional or others, may have forced her to do so. After an appointment with her gynaecologist or her generalist, the most positive scenario is that this doctor will give her the address of a Centre or Clinic in the area where she lives to have the abortion as soon and as safe as possible, assuming that the term of her pregnancy is within the legal delay.
Unfortunately this is not always the case, and if yes the doctor sends her to a hospital or clinic the waiting time is very often so long that the legal delay will be passed at the moment she will get an appointment.
Then starts the search for a liable alternative, by experience I know that it takes some times more than 3 weeks to find an organization - like in France the MFPF – or a doctor who will cooperate to find a solution. The pregnancy in the mean time, is far beyond the legal delay in her country, the costs are doubled, the strain becomes unbearable.
What if, at the moment of her arrival in the Clinic of her choice, be it in the UK, Holland or Spain, she finds that her pregnancy has exceed the legal delay in the “guest” country, she happens to have a too low HB, ( Dutch hospitals are not prepared to give transfusions to foreigners unless there is danger of life), there is a problem with her coagulation, she is HIV positive, she has Hepatitis or she has simply not sufficient money,( this is what we experience frequently in our Centre in Holland). Do we send her back home, do we take risks concerning her health or our finances?
Who should we or she turn to: the organization in her home country? her gynaecologist?
Who is responsible for this woman, this moral problem often weights heavy and gives a feeling of powerlessness.
From these experiences one may get the tendency that country’s with a restrictive law give the impression to be more or less content at the idea that the neighbour will do the job and that consequently administrations do not move. I know that this negative thought is unfair towards all those who are risking their necks in order to improve the legal situation in their countries.
No – the sad reality, to my opinion, is, that abortion will never be “Salonfähig”, will always be a political “ non-issue” , and will continue to depend on militant “fieldworkers”.
I therefore urge that it is the duty of us, Fiapac members, to advocate the right of every woman to have a safe abortion, to help local organizations in reaching that goal and to develop teaching programs for doctors, nurses and social workers.
Since 1984, termination has been authorised on the decision of the woman
alone No time limit is specified, but it is rare for 22 weeks of amenorrhoea to
be passed. The procedures are carried out in private, non-profit-making
centres, and are strictly registered.