UK provider backs abortion campaign
Britain's largest abortion provider is gearing up for a battle to bring UK-style abortion clinics to Ireland.
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (Bpas) said it was forced to weigh into the row after being shocked at the fall-out over new laws allowing for terminations only in certain circumstances.
An advertisement in the Irish Times newspaper today accuses the Government of washing its hands of the 4,000 Irish women who travel to Britain every year for an abortion.
Bpas said this was only the "starting point".
The organisation has more than 40 abortion clinics in Britain, carrying out 60,000 terminations every year.
Clare Murphy, Bpas director of press and public policy, said English people felt "extremely strongly" about women having to come over the Irish Sea for such medical procedures.
"In the 21st century, Ireland should not be relying on Britain to provide such crucial health care to its women," she said.
Ms Murphy said Bpas were left "shocked" when they were denied a place at the Oireachtas hearings earlier this year that led to the controversial Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act.
As one of the leading abortion services Irish women turn to in the UK, she said they are among the most important voices that should have been heard in the debate.
The Bpas director said they had asked well in advance of the closing date to be included as speakers at the three-day hearings, but were told they would not be invited as too many people wanted to appear.
"I think it's because there is a denial among the political establishment about ordinary women and Irish women's needs and there is a complete reluctance to face up to what Irish women need," she added.
Ms Murphy said Bpas felt moved to mount a campaign in Ireland after watching the fall-out unfold.
"It is a first for us, and I guess it is really the product of having watched what has gone on in Ireland over the last year and having become so incredibly frustrated by a discussion that has completely and utterly failed to take into account the needs of the majority of Irish women who find themselves with unplanned pregnancies or pregnancies they are no longer able to carry to term," she said.
Bpas believes the new legislation maintains the status quo and "changes absolutely nothing" for thousands of Irish women who travel to UK clinics every year for abortions.
The well-resourced organisation said it was mounting an "advocacy campaign" in Ireland and would work with existing pro-choice campaigns in the months and years to come to push for more liberal laws.
"We do have funds we can use through donations, etc, to mount advocacy work like this," said Ms Murphy.
"I think it is something that people in England also feel extremely strongly about, that in the 21st century, the idea that their neighbours in Ireland have to come to England for this procedure.
"So it's campaign we feel very comfortable in mounting," she said.
Ms Murphy insisted Bpas had no financial interest in pushing for a relaxation of Irish abortion laws.
"There is absolutely no business interest in this for us," she said.
"This is about helping the women we see access the care they need at home."