In Northern Ireland, abortion is illegal to preserve a woman’s life or to prevent permanent or long-term injury to her physical or mental health. Abortions that are still conducted are criminal offenses punishable by imprisonment. We assessed the impacts of Northern Ireland’s abortion laws on women’s decision-making and experiences in accessing abortion.

The researchers interviewed 30 women living in Northern Ireland who had sought abortion by traveling to a clinic or by using online telemedicine to self-manage a medication abortion at home.

Women experience multiple barriers to traveling for abortion services, even when abortion is provided without charge. Self-management is often preferred over travel, but its criminalization engenders fear and isolation. Obstruction of import of abortion medications by Northern Ireland Customs contributes to stress, anxiety, a higher risk of complications, and trial of ineffective or unsafe methods. The lack of clarity surrounding the obligations of healthcare professionals in Northern Ireland causes mistrust of the healthcare system.

The study concluded through its findings that abortion laws negatively affect the quality and safety of women’s healthcare and can have serious implications for women’s physical and emotional health.