The Cost of An Abortion for the People of Northern Ireland

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Elcie Burrows

Elcie is a writer, campaigner and charity events co-ordinator from Northern Ireland.

To put it mildly, I’m broke as shit. I have 4 freelance-style jobs, only 3 of which pay and they pay badly. (I hasten to add that I absolutely love all of my jobs, please nobody fire me… actually, whilst I’m here…please more people hire me). It sucks to be broke and have to budget and plan and all that jazz. However, one thing that’s been on my mind recently is the idea of having to budget for an accidental pregnancy. Or, more specifically, an abortion. To clarify, I don’t need an abortion. I’m very much single and although I’m far from a nun, it’s been a very, very long time since I’ve had a one night stand or been with anybody that I wouldn’t seriously consider having a child with anyway. And that’s no judgment on people who are out there embracing that ‘walk of shame’ lifestyle (walk of I-got-game, if you ask me), I just haven’t.

But if I did have a one night stand and I ended up pregnant, I would be seriously considering having an abortion. Actually, there’s a multitude of scenarios that may lead me to consider having an abortion. Or not having an abortion. It’s my choice. However, living here in Northern Ireland, it doesn’t seem to be my choice. In fact, it’s illegal to have an abortion in Northern Ireland. You can only have an abortion in Northern Ireland if you’re actually going to die from the pregnancy otherwise, or have severe lasting physical and mental health damage. Aww, aren’t they good to us!* If I lived anywhere else in Britain I would be able to make that decision with all the options that are freely and legally available to me.

So if I were to become pregnant and I did decide to have an abortion (it’s my body so it’s my choice motherfuckers) what would my options be? I could go online and find some abortion-inducing pills? Or try and find one of the campaigning groups that do exist but are forced to operate covertly like a fucking Freemason’s club, and hope they can help me access some pills? Sounds like a plan, you say. But actually that’s a plan that I see me being arrested, convicted and sentenced to a two year suspended sentence, which has actually happened to another woman. In April of this year, a 21 year old women was sentenced by Belfast Crown Court, to exactly that sentence because she used abortion-inducing pills. Which is, in my official opinion, absolute balls.

The other alternative is to travel to England to have a medical abortion. This seems to be the most common option and is certainly the option that has been chosen by the people I know who have had an abortion. But it ain’t cheap.

The medical procedure wouldn’t be covered by the National Health Service (the UK health service) solely because I’m Northern Irish. An English woman in the exact same circumstances as me wouldn’t have to pay, but I’d have to go to a private clinic. So what is the cost privately?

Well, if I’m between 19 and 24 weeks pregnant I could be looking at a price of almost $2,600 U.S. dollars. Fuck. But let’s say I’m under 14 weeks pregnant for talks sake. If I don’t mind being wide awake with no anesthetic, I’m paying just over  $780. But there’s fuck all chance that I want to be wide awake during any kind of surgery so give me the drugs man…which brings it to a whopping  $1,024.

Then of course I’d also have to come up with the dolla bills to transport myself to said clinic. That’s the cost of two flights PLUS accommodations. Although most abortions would be quick enough to allow you to fly home on the same day, if I’m taking the drugs, and I would be, I will definitely not be flying home the same day as I’ll be too busy flying high in la-la land to possibly deal with an airport situation.

The overall cost of a return flight and one night’s accommodation could be anywhere from $260 upwards depending on the day, the location of the clinic, availability at hotels, time of year etc. But let’s say I get lucky and I swing it for £200. So that £200 plus the £789 for the procedure and I’m looking at about a $1,300  overall cost.

On the 2nd of July this year in Belfast, 1000 people took to the streets to protest the current abortion laws. Women like Stacey. Just over 15 years ago, Stacey became pregnant. Fortunately Stacey’s parents were understanding and supportive:

“I had to ask my parents, luckily they were very supportive otherwise there was no way I or my boyfriend would have had the money to either travel across to the mainland or pay for the actual abortion itself”.

Despite the internet being not quite as accessible and advice on abortion options not exactly forthcoming, Stacey and her family managed to arrange an abortion in England. With a £200 stuffed in a brown envelope, she traveled over to England and had the procedure. Although her parents were supportive, Stacey felt the taboo at work:

“I did have to take time off work. I remember telling my manager and her turning down the slip at the top from the doctor that gave the actual reason why. I left shortly after because I felt there was such a stigma involved that I couldn’t deal with anyone knowing.”

The woman who was convicted in April and received a two year suspended sentence because she used abortions pills says she used those pills because she couldn’t afford to go to England and get a surgical abortion. Well, neither could my broke ass. Which also raises the question, if I can’t afford £1000 to get an abortion, how on earth could I afford to have the baby instead?!



*Extreme sarcasm. There’s a whole lot of emotional, moral and religious debate that surrounds a woman’s decision to have an abortion. I chose to purposely ignore all that hoo-ha and focus only on the financial implications.



Header image: Pro-choice rally in Belfast Jully 2016. Photo by Conor Meikleham.