Monday, June 28, 2010

Irish Times: Increasing numbers consider abortion 'because of recession'

Health Correspondent

Mon, Jun 28, 2010

WOMEN IN increasing numbers are considering terminating pregnancies as a consequence of the recession, according to Dublin’s Well Woman Centre.

Chief executive Alison Begas said yesterday that up to one in five of the 2,000 of so women who presented to Well Woman for pregnancy counselling last year cited financial concerns as the main reason why they were seeking information on having a termination.

Some of the women were married and already had children, some were professionals who had had their salaries or hours cut, and some came to discuss their options accompanied by their partners who had recently lost their jobs, she said.

She said figures collated by Well Woman’s three centres in Dublin – Ballsbridge, Coolock and Liffey Street in the city centre – which offer non-directive counselling, showed increased numbers of women with financial concerns attending for pregnancy counselling services in 2009.

While in previous years women cited financial concerns as reasons for considering a termination, those financial concerns had more to do with lifestyle factors such as wanting to spend their money travelling the world, she said.

Ms Begas said the trend was disturbing. “It’s only one other aspect of how the recession is impacting on women’s health . . . it’s insidious the way it hits people,” she said.

Ms Begas, who was speaking in advance of the publication today of Well Woman’s annual report, said women coming to the counselling service were of all ages – from students up to women in their 40s. They included “barristers, managing directors, housewives and students”.

“We would see probably a couple of thousand women a year of all ages. What we have found in the last year in about 15 to 20 per cent of the pregnancy counselling services is that the woman was specifically citing income worries and issues around financial security as reasons for attending.

“When counsellors delved deeper into that, it was either she might have lost her job recently or had her hours or salary reduced or there was a fear that was on the horizon. Or similarly that may have happened to her husband or partner.

“Sometimes these were married couples with one or two children and everything was very, very tight [financially] and considering continuing with the pregnancy was something they felt unable to do,” she said. “What we have also heard from younger women, maybe in university facing a crisis pregnancy, is they were not confident they would immediately get a job on graduation or secure a job with an income that would allow them cover creche fees.”

Well Woman’s pregnancy counselling service is funded by the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme (formerly the Crisis Pregnancy Agency) and is free for all women.

“We will discuss with a woman her three options including abortion, adoption and parenting. We cannot and do not offer any advice. We do not try to persuade her,” she said.

As a result Ms Begas said she did not know how many of the women with financial worries actually went on to have an abortion or, if following counselling, they reconsidered. “We never know what decision she makes when she leaves the room.”

© 2010 The Irish Times