Experiences of non-resident abortion seekers in the United Kingdom: a pilot-study
ESC Congress Library. De Zordo S. May 4, 2016; 126832; A-005 Disclosure(s): This pilot-study was funded by a ESC (European Society of Contraception and Reproductive Health) small grant
Dr. Silvia De Zordo
Dr. Silvia De Zordo
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This pilot study aimed to improve understanding of European women's experiences travelling to England to seek abortion services at the British pregnancy advisory service (Bpas). We examined women's experiences related to abortion travel, especially with respect to the possible impact that national abortion laws and conscientious objection have on women's abortion experiences across European countries. While much has been written about traveling to obtain abortion services in Canada, the United States, and Australia, few studies have examined this issue within the European context.

2-Design & methods:
Between August, 2014 and March, 2015, we surveyed 58 non-UK residents seeking abortions at three abortion clinics in London, England. Research sites were chosen based on the volume of non-resident clients at these facilities within the past year. Participants received remuneration of £8 per survey. We conducted descriptive, bivariate, and stratified analyses of sociodemographic characteristics, country of birth and residence, reproductive history, abortion seeking experiences, abortion decision making, and travel logistics.

Participants travelled to England from 16 countries: 41% from Western Europe, 32% from Ireland/Northern Ireland, 5% from Northern or Eastern Europe, and 18% from the Middle East. More than 30% of women reported being delayed by not recognizing that they were pregnant. Women in our study had a range of experiences with abortion decision making, but nearly half of participants (41%) found the decision to be 'difficult or very difficult'. The most common reason stated for travel was abortion not being legal in their country of residence (62%), followed by having passed the gestational limit for a legal abortion in their country (41%,). 95% of women travelled by airplane and 88% stayed overnight. Women paid an average of £631 for travel expenses, and an average of £210 for accommodation. More than 50% found it 'difficult or very difficult' to cover travel costs.

These results indicate that women seeking abortion services travel to England not only from countries with very restrictive abortion laws, (ie., Ireland, Poland, Saudi Arabia), but also from countries with ostensibly liberal abortion laws (ie., Italy and France), primarily due to gestational limits on legal abortion. These results also suggest that not recognizing pregnancy and/or difficulties in decision making may be important reasons for delays in accessing abortion. Finally, these data reveal that abortion travel represents an economic burden that is difficult for many women. A larger mixed-methods study is needed to further study this phenomenon.



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