LONDON As the United Kingdom absorbs the European Union referendum results, the impact of a “Brexit” on daily life is at the forefront of the British public’s mind.
In the aftermath of the vote, Brits are questioning how leaving the EU will affect their jobs, their retirement, their wealth, the way in which they travel, and their future plans. But, the British public aren’t the only ones whose lives could be directly affected once the UK exits the EU.
Currently, women in the Republic of Ireland where abortion is illegal travel to England in order to gain access to safe and legal abortions. In fact, since the 8th Amendment went into effect in 1983 introducing a ban on abortion an estimated150,000 women have travelled abroad to get access to legal abortion services.
But, leaving the EU could make it significantly more difficult for Irish women to travel to the UK in order to have an abortion.
Fiona De Londras professor of global legal studies at Birmingham Law School told Mashable that Brexit “may have some serious implications for women from the Republic of Ireland.”
“It is quite possible that, in time, people travelling from Ireland to the UK will need visas.”
“It is quite possible that, in time, people travelling from Ireland to the UK will need visas, particularly if they are non-Irish but still EU citizens living in Ireland,” De Londras told Mashable.
De Londras says that this possibility could mean an “additional burden” for women in Ireland who are trying to access safe and legal abortion services; something which would “further exacerbate the challenges they already face.”
The Common Travel Area
Currently, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland form part of the “Common Travel Area” (CTA); which allows freedom of movement between the two states, and means that immigration control doesn’t apply to Irish people arriving in the UK.
According toBernard Ryan Professor of Law at the University of Leicester it is “to be presumed” that the reasons for the CTA’s existence would continue. But, this isn’t a dead-cert.
“After a UK decision to withdraw, reform of common travel arrangements might nevertheless be considered,” writes Ryan in a paper on Brexit’s impact on the CTA.
Catherine Barnard senior fellow at the UK in a Changing Europe told Mashablethat currently the rules on freemovement afford people the right to move freely between member states in order to lawfully “receive services” which includes abortion abroad.
Barnard saysthat Brexit’s impact on the situation depends on whether the UK agrees to uphold the existing free movement rights. If this arrangement isn’t upheld, then Irish citizens would have to “comply with UK immigration laws,” according to Barnard.
However, we are yet to ascertain the nature of the EU exit deal, so we can’t know for sure what the free movement rights will be, says Barnard.
Mara Clarke,Director of the Abortion Support Network a charity that helps women in Ireland travel to England to get abortions says that any hardening of the border will cause complications for Irish women seeking abortions.
“Currently, we already hear from a good size of Irish women who don’t have passports. A few airlines insist on passports, but others allow alternative forms of photo ID,” Clarke told Mashable.
Clarke says that if passports are required to enter the UK, this means women will incur further costand further delays to this already expensive medical procedure.
“An emergency passport costs135 ($150). That’s an additional expenditure when you’re already spending500 for an abortion,” says Clarke.
“The delay while waiting for a passport could cause a further delay for the medical procedure, which would then result in additional costs. An abortion doubles in price when you reach 14 weeks [in a pregnancy]. And, it triples in price at 19 weeks,” Clarke continued.
She’s most concerned about low-income women, non-EU migrants, and vulnerable women, who if subjected to delays would be pushed into a significantly higher price bracket
Clarke says she’s worried, but it’s still very unclear what the Brexit deal will look like.
Not everyone shares Clarke’s concerns, however.
Rita Harrold spokesperson for abortion rights organisation Rosa Ireland says Rosa isn’t particularly concerned about Brexit.
“There is no compulsion on the UK government to make travel to the UK more difficult. I assume they will still want European tourists and that short-term travel won’t be impacted at all,” Harrold told Mashable.
“One of the most vulnerable groups of women in Ireland are non-EU migrants who, as it stands, have to get visas to travel to the UK or the Netherlands for legal abortions,” Harrold continued.
According to Harrold, Rosa assists vulnerable women in accessing abortion pills when travel visas are required to “ensure they can have an abortion if that is their choice.” Sourcing abortion pills online or travelling to the Netherlands are viable options should the rights afforded by CTA be affected by Brexit.
However, it remains to be seen what the future of free movement between Ireland and the UK will look like. It’s possible that the right to travel freely between the two states will remain the same, but nothing is certain.
It’s impossible to rule out any changes to those rights, which means that for the moment the future of Irish women’s access to abortion services is unclear, and entirely contingent on the withdrawal deal and the nature of the government in power.
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