Thursday December 10, 2009
Paul Harrison, Sky News reporter
A woman who for years has helped Irish women seek terminations in the UK has warned that the credit crunch could bring about the return of "medieval" backstreet abortions.
Ann Rossiter, herself forced into having an illegal abortion, made the claim as three woman challenged Ireland's historic laws at Strasbourg's European Court of Human Rights.
"Travelling to the UK costs money and at the moment many students and older pregnant women don't have the funds they once had," explained the author of Ireland's Hidden Diaspora: The Abortion Trail.
"In my case my health was severely damaged. It was medieval torture. A return to the days of backstreet abortions will happen as long as the law remains unchanged."
Since abortions became legal in Britain in 1967, 150,000 women from the Republic and Northern Ireland have made the journey to the UK.
They would stay at homes like the one now owned by Ann in London.
Abortion is illegal in Ireland
"Low-budget airlines did a lot to help those escaping draconian laws, but there was always the fear or embarrassment of seeing someone they knew at the airport," she told Sky News.
"When they arrived they'd have a bed for the night. They would be scared and we did all we could to make them comfortable. The following day they would fly home."
The need to stay in for observation after an abortion was soon abolished by the NHS, meaning women would mainly fly in and out in a single day.
"But now that money is tight many are choosing the cheaper, late-night flights, meaning that many are starting to stay overnight again."
Fearing the law is not about to change any time soon, Ann's spare bedrooms are made up and ready.
Ireland's Hidden Diaspora: The Abortion Trail and The Making of a London-Irish Underground, 1980-2000 is distributed by IASC.