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Queen Mary researcher develops new abortion support resource

Queen Mary University of London researcher Dr Sydney Calkin has developed a new online resource so that people across Europe can safely access abortion services when they are unable to in their own country. It was developed in collaboration with the Abortion Support Network. Countries include Poland, Ireland and Malta – in response to particularly high levels of need in some locations.

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The web tool – Finder.abortion.eu - provides accurate, otherwise hard to find, and practical information in numerous European languages about how and where women and pregnant people can access safe and legal abortion depending on the stage of their pregnancy.

People who travel abroad for abortion often face significant logistical and financial problems, on top of language difficulties and medical terms which they may not understand. This makes the resource a vital asset for people who need clear, practical, and non-judgmental information.

Visitors will be able to find out which countries they can travel to if they cannot access an abortion locally, specific clinics that are most accessible, as well as further information about groups that can provide financial assistance towards the cost of the abortion and travel.

While available to any resident of Europe who needs help accessing safe abortion, the hope is that this resource proves particularly valuable to countries with near total abortion bans such as Malta and Poland, as well as countries with limited access to later abortion care. 

Dr Sydney Calkin, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at Queen Mary University of London, said:

“Everyone should have access to safe, legal and local abortion services, but for many these do not exist. Our web resource exists to provide practical information for people who are forced to leave their home country because they need essential medical care – abortion.

“A few countries in Europe, like Poland and Malta, prohibit almost all abortions. Many other countries permit abortion in the first trimester but prohibit any later abortions. People from across Europe have to travel for abortion when they least expect it. It’s often a very stressful and expensive experience. Finder.abortion.eu exists to make this journey easier with information and support.”

Mara Clarke, Abortion Support Network founder said: “We are thrilled that Finder.abortion.eu will be a resource for people forced to travel to access second trimester abortions. Given that there are so many sources providing medical misinformation and anti-choice rhetoric, it’s great that this will be a place where anyone in Europe can find clear, unbiased, factual information on how and where to access second trimester abortions.

“This resource is even more important as countries like Poland further restrict access to abortion, and as anti-abortion governments work to make abortions more difficult to get.  There is a lot of stigma around abortion, but even more so around later abortion. Even the Republic of Ireland, which liberalised its abortion law in 2018, only allows abortion on request to 12 weeks, meaning everyone else needs to travel abroad to access care.”

The information available will be of particular importance after Brexit, as women will be able to identify alternative countries and clinics given that the from 1 October the UK will only accept passports and not European IDs.

While abortion is legal to some extent across most of Europe, cost, stigma, and medical obstacles mean that many must leave their home country for safe and legal abortion. And their decision to have an abortion abroad is often shrouded in secrecy because of anti-abortion stigma.

Dr Calkin, from the School of Geography at the University, has extensively researched abortion geographies and pro-choice activism, publishing an extensive body of research as well as editing books around abortion access and international relations.