Offences Against the Person Act 1861

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:52 pm on 5th June 2018.

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Photo of Jess Phillips Jess Phillips Labour, Birmingham, Yardley 4:52 pm, 5th June 2018

Recently, I had to hire a car. It turned out that the cheapest and best option was to hire it from Birmingham airport. When I got in the car, I turned on the on-board sat-nav, and the last journey taken was to the Calthorpe clinic in Edgbaston—the place I myself had been for an abortion a decade previously. I shuddered at the thought of the woman who had hired the car before me, not to go about her working life but to do something that I had taken completely for granted. I and Heidi Allen are not criminals.

Last week, I asked the women of Northern Ireland to get in touch and tell me their stories of travelling to England, Scotland and Wales. Today I am them, and here are some extracts:

“It was Christmas Eve. I was with friends at a party and stepped outside for a breath of air and I was raped…
My Mum had to book flights and booked me into a clinic. This all took money &
I was from a working class family. We borrowed what we could and I left for London. Alone after I’d been Raped. I’d never travelled anywhere on my own.”

“I was in a relationship of sorts with” an abusive man.

“I knew that had I carried on with this pregnancy I would not only lose my job but my home and the ability to look after the children I already had. My consultant told me that following legal advice medical staff were not allowed to provide any information that would help anyone to get an abortion.”

“I cried on the phone when I rang Marie Stopes in Belfast and they told me how much it would cost to book a medical abortion. I…considered taking too many of the antidepressants…not enough to kill myself but enough to induce a miscarriage”.

“I was 15, standing in McDonalds car park in the freezing December weather staring at a boy much older than me minutes after finding out I was pregnant. I was terrified…that someone would see me standing in my school uniform. I went to Liverpool two months before I turned 16, and 8 weeks after having sex with a boy who no longer wanted to know my name. The shame I felt lingered long after I had made the eight-hour boat journey back to Northern Ireland.”