Rep. Dan Lipinski, who has parroted Republican talking points pushing junk science to support anti-choice policies, won with 50.89 percent of the vote.

Anti-choice Democratic U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski won his primary on Tuesday by a slim margin against progressive challenger Marie Newman, capping off a race in Illinois’ District 3 centered on Lipinski’s opposition to abortion rights and LGBTQ rights.

As of Wednesday morning, Lipinski had won 50.89 percent of votes to Newman’s 49.1 percent, with less than 2,000 votes separating the two Democrats. The Associated Press called the race in the incumbent’s favor early Wednesday morning. Newman reportedly declined to concede as the results came in Tuesday night.

Newman, a first-time candidate, came within striking distance of a win despite polling released by the campaign in December noting she had low name recognition in the district.

Lipinski’s opposition to abortion rightsLGBTQ equalitythe Affordable Care Act, and other issues commonly safeguarded by Democrats made him the target of progressive groups who hoped to unseat the “Blue Dog” Democrat.

Lipinski’s position on reproductive rights has earned him the support of several anti-choice groups. Not only has he co-sponsored legislation like a ban on abortion at 20 weeks’ gestation, he co-chairs the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus and sits on the federal advisory board of anti-choice group Democrats for Life of America.

Anti-choice group Susan B. Anthony List announced this month that it would deploy a team of 70 canvassers in support of Lipinski. The District 3 primary marks the first time that SBA List had canvassed for a Democratic candidate, according to the conservative National Review.

The anti-choice group had supported Lipinski in past races.

During this primary, it spent almost $120,000 “on not just ads and mailers but also money to fly canvassers to the district, put them up at hotels and transport them in vans to various neighborhoods,” CNN reported.

Though Lipinski skipped a scheduled speaking engagement for the anti-choice March for Life in January, he appeared at an affiliated event that week where he lamented that progressive groups had gone “all in” on the race to back Newman. Lipinski parroted Republican talking points pushing junk science to support anti-choice policy and noted that he was “hanging in there” to “evangelize” his opposition to abortion rights, as Rewire.News reported.

Newman had the backing of progressive groups and organizations focused on reproductive rights and health, including NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and EMILY’s List. Her platform called for the protection of abortion rights, noting her belief that “reproductive decisions belong with women and her right to choose, not with government or politicians.”

Lipinski will take on Republican Arthur Jones in the November midterm elections. The seat is considereda “solid Democratic” stronghold by Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales and Roll Call. Jones ran unopposed in the Republican primary, despite being a neo-Nazi and white supremacist who is openly campaigning as a Holocaust-denier. The state’s Republican Party has disavowed the candidate.

Abortion rights were a central issue in Illinois’ Republican gubernatorial primary, where Gov. Bruce Rauner beat state Rep. Jeanne Ives.

Ives throughout her campaign attacked Rauner’s decision to sign a pro-choice measure last September to expand insurance coverage for abortion care and strike down provisions in the state’s “trigger law” to outlaw abortion should Roe v. Wade be overturned. She vowed to “immediately” sign a measure to repeal it should she be elected.

Rauner will face Democrat J.B. Pritzker in the general election for governor.


U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves wrote that Mississippi Republicans’ 15-week abortion ban was of “dubious constitutionality.”

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) on Monday signed a law—HB 1510—that bans abortion after 15 weeks’ gestation. The law went into effect immediately, giving Mississippi the honor of having the most stringent abortion ban in the United States.

Bryant tweeted that he was “committed to making Mississippi the safest place in America” for fetuses.

By Tuesday afternoon, however, the law was blocked by a federal judge.

Within hours of Bryant signing the law, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit on behalf of Jackson Women’s Health Organization—Mississippi’s sole abortion clinic—challenging the law as unconstitutional and seeking a temporary restraining order to block it.

“Under decades of United States Supreme Court precedent, the state of Mississippi cannot ban abortion prior to viability, regardless of what exceptions are provided to the ban,” the complaint reads.

“Accordingly, the ban is unconstitutional as applied to all women seeking pre-viability abortions after 15 weeks.”

U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves granted plaintiffs’ temporary restraining order on Tuesday afternoon in a brief two-page order. “The Supreme Court says every woman has a constitutional right to ‘personal privacy’ regarding her body. That right protects her choice ‘to have an abortion before viability,’” Reeves wrote, citing Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

“The plaintiffs are substantially likely to succeed on their claim that HB 1510 is unconstitutional. The law threatens immediate, irreparable harm to Mississippians’ abilities to control their ‘destiny and … body,’” Reeves wrote, citing Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. “This is especially true for one woman scheduled to have a 15-week abortion this afternoon.”

The cases Reeves cited—RoeCasey, and Hellerstedt—all prohibit a state from interfering with a pregnant person’s right to a pre-viability abortion. Medical consensus is that a fetus is not viable until about 24 weeks. Anti-choice activists have attempted to roll back the point of viability, arguing that some fetuses can survive outside the womb at 22 weeks.

But no fetus is viable at 15 weeks, as the plaintiffs note in their complaint.

“HB 1510 places viability at 15 weeks—about two months earlier than where the medical consensus places it,” Reeves wrote in his order, noting that the law is of “dubious constitutionality.”

Dubious constitutionality is putting it lightly. Anti-choice politicians have been laser-focused on enacting pre-viability abortion bans—a 20-week ban here, a six-week ban there—but all of them suffer the same problem: They’re wildly unconstitutional.

These abortion bans have been unconstitutional since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in 1973, and they will remain unconstitutional unless the U.S. Supreme Court either overturns its landmark decision or reverses 40 years’ worth of case law about the importance of fetal viability. And given the Court’s 2016 Hellerstedt decision, that’s not likely to happen unless President Trump is able to stack the Court with conservative judges.

For now, pre-viability abortion bans like Mississippi’s are unconstitutional.


As a leader and founding member of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, Slaughter centered reproductive health-care access in her work on Capitol Hill.

Advocates for women, reproductive rights, and LGBTQ equality paid tribute to the legacy of U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) after the death of the 16-term lawmaker late last week.

Slaughter died Friday morning following a recent fall at her Washington, D.C., residence, according to a statement from her office. She was 88 years old.

Slaughter was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1986. In 2007, she became the first woman to chair the House Rules Committee. The powerful role put Slaughter in charge of setting procedures to consider legislation, and amendments, on the House floor for a final vote.

As a leader and founding member of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, Slaughter centered reproductive health-care access in her work on Capitol Hill. She redoubled her advocacy under the virulently anti-choice Trump administration.

One of Slaughter’s final actions was to call for the firing of Scott Lloyd at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Lloyd has weaponized his religious beliefs to deny abortion care to undocumented immigrant teenagers, including a teen who had become pregnant by rape.

“We are deeply disturbed by the Trump Administration’s constant willingness to ignore and bend the rules when it comes to women’s rights and reproductive health,” Slaughter and her caucus co-chair, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), wrote in a letter to the thus-far immovable HHS Secretary Alex Azar last month.

After Slaughter’s death, DeGette called her “a warrior for all the issues she cared about.”

“As a champion of women’s reproductive rights, she was especially proud to represent Seneca Falls, home to the first women’s rights convention in the United States,” DeGette said in a statement. “I’ll miss her wisdom and wit every day.”

Slaughter’s legacy dates back to her first years in Congress. In 1991, she was part of a core group of congressional Democratic women who successfully fought to allow Anita Hill’s testimony during Clarence Thomas’ U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

Two years later, the microbiologist led congressional efforts to create the Office of Research on Women’s Health within the National Institutes of Health. She also co-authored the original Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994.

Advocates for reproductive rights and health praised Slaughter’s legacy.

“Louise never shied away from an opportunity to speak out and protect a woman’s right to plan her future and control her body,” Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards said. Physicians for Reproductive Health President and CEO Jodi Magee similarly praised Slaughter’s “deep devotion to women’s well-being.”

Slaughter was a longtime LGBTQ ally, breaking ranks with most of her fellow Democrats in 1996 to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act. Her congressional website described her this year as a “major force” in expanding VAWA protections to LGBTQ people, as well as to Native Americans and immigrant women, as part of the 2013 reauthorization of the law.

Slaughter had condemned efforts to expand so-called conscience protectionsgrowing under Trump—that enable health-care providers to turn away LGBTQ patients and deny reproductive health care. She took to the House floor last year to slam Trump’s transgender military ban.

Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) praised Slaughter, a caucus member, as “a champion for the rights of all people, but particularly for the LGBT community.”

“From her leadership on issues from marriage equality to comprehensive nondiscrimination protections, Representative Slaughter fought arm in arm with our community every day,” he said in a statement. “Her wit, passion, and depth of experience will be greatly missed in our Caucus.”


A bill advancing in the state would ban the procedure before most people even know they are pregnant.

A sign posted on a farm just of I-380 asks voters to vote morally against abortion and gay marriage outside of Waterloo, Iowa, January 25, 2016, ahead of the Iowa Caucus. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images) 

A bill prohibiting the sale of fetal tissue and banning abortion after six weeks passed the Iowa House and Human Resources Committee on Thursday, clearing the way for a floor vote in the state House that reproductive justice advocates say could have sweeping consequences in the state and all but ban the procedure before most people even know they are pregnant.

In a 12 to 9 vote, Iowa lawmakers endorsed the so-called “heartbeat bill”, which would ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, or approximately six weeks. While the measure allows for an abortion in the case of physical threat to the health of the pregnant parent, no exceptions for rape, incest, or age are included.

“I think it will do a great deal to promote a culture of life in this state,” said Rep. Sandy Salmon (R-Janesville).

That sentiment is far from universal. The bill initially centered on banning the sale of fetal tissue, but the heartbeat component was attached to the legislation as a GOP-led subcommittee considered the measure on Wednesday before the wider House committee passed it on Thursday. Abortion rights supporters lobbied the subcommittee to reject the measure, speaking to their own experiences with the procedure and testifying that the lives of many in the state will be drastically impacted without access to abortion.

“If I did not have the choice to terminate my pregnancy, I would not be with you here today,” said Leah Vanden Bosch, who lives in West Des Moines. “I will not stop saying that until you understand what I am telling you. If someone were to force me to stay pregnant, I would have been so desperate to escape the reality that would have become my life, that I would have been willing to take my own.”

The sole Democrat on the three-person panel, Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell (Ames), panned the addition of the six-week ban.

“I am disappointed that we have … basically a bait-and-switch,” she said.

Iowa already has among the most hardline anti-abortion laws in the country. The state currently bans the medical procedure after 20 weeks and requires parental consent for minors seeking abortions. Ultrasounds are mandated for those seeking abortions, while Medicaid-funded abortions must receive special approval by the governor. According to the Guttmacher Institute, as of 2014 some 89 percent of Iowa counties did not have clinics offering abortion.

That scenario mirrors a reality across much of the United States, where hardline laws and ongoing efforts on both the state and federal level have rolled back abortion rights. Heartbeat bills have gained popularity in recent years and present an appealing option for abortion opponents. Despite facing repeated opposition from federal courts and officials concerned over constitutional infringements, lawmakers in Ohio, Arkansas, North Dakota, and elsewhere have all attempted to install such legislation. In January, Republicans introduced a national heartbeat billfor the first time in Congress. Iowa Rep. Steve King (R) made the intention of the bill clear to reporters prior to the bill’s introduction.

“We think this bill properly applied does eliminate a large, large share of the abortions — 90 percent or better — of the abortions in America,” King said.

Iowa’s bill hits out at more than just abortion access. The sale of fetal tissue is another popular area of national debate. While fetal tissue donation is legal on a federal level, U.S. law prohibits any parties from profiting in such exchanges. But in 2015, a series of discredited sting videos released by the anti-abortion Center for Medical Progress purported to show Planned Parenthood representatives engaging in the sale of fetal tissue. The videos set off a firestorm of legislation, in addition to sparking a deadly attack on a Planned Parenthood location in Colorado. Last November, Arkansas cut off Medicaid funding to the organization for a second time, citing the videos as rationale. Earlier this year, Ohio passed a lawrequiring fetal tissue to be either buried or cremated.

That trend seems set to continue in Iowa, where residents expressed concern that the state’s advancing heartbeat bill would negatively impact pregnant people in need of help.

“At six weeks and for some time to come, that fetal heartbeat that’s in the bill is dependent upon another heartbeat,” Jane Robinette, an Urbandale resident, told the Des Moines Register. “What about the heartbeat of the 12-year-old incest or rape survivor who finds herself pregnant? What about the heartbeat of the 50-year-old [parent] of grown children. What about the heartbeat of the teenager who cuts herself because of emotional or psychological trauma or who is suicidal?”

The House bill notably removes language contained in a separate version of the legislation in the Senate repealing Iowa’s 20-week restriction if the heartbeat bill becomes law. Another provision in the Senate bill, which would impose a Class D felony on doctors for performing abortions after six weeks, was also removed. Due to procedural deadlines, the House must approve the bill by Friday in order for it to remain eligible for ongoing debate this session.

Iowa’s efforts are the latest in a recent string of anti-abortion measures in the South, Midwest, and Appalachia. After vowing to “end abortions in Mississippi” in 2014, Gov. Phil Bryant (R) is expected to sign a bill banning the procedure after 15 weeks. In Kentucky, the state House of Representatives passed a bill this week banning the commonly-used  “dilation and evacuation” procedure, or D&E, after 11 weeks. Banning the procedure would make virtually all second trimester abortions in the state illegal. The bill is now headed to the Kentucky Senate.


A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine says that abortion is safe but that “abortion specific regulations in many states create barriers to safe and effective care.”

Bryce Duffy/Getty Images

Abortions in the United States are safe and have few complications, according to a landmark new study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

The report, called “The Safety and Quality of Abortion Care in the United States,” examined the four major methods used for abortions — medication, aspiration, dilation and evacuation, and induction — and examined women’s care from before they had the procedure through their follow-up care.

“I would say the main takeaway is that abortions that are provided in the United States are safe and effective,” says Ned Calonge, the co-chair of the committee that wrote the study. He is an associate professor of family medicine and epidemiology at the University of Colorado and CEO of The Colorado Trust.

Calonge says the researchers found that about 90 percent of all abortions happen in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. And complications for all abortions are “rare,” the report says.

But the report did find that state laws and regulations can interfere with safe abortions.

“Abortion-specific regulations in many states create barriers to safe and effective care,” the report says.

Calonge says those rules often have no basis in medical research.

Analysis is limited to facilities that had caseloads of 400 abortions or more per year and those affiliated with Planned Parenthood that performed at least one abortion in the period of analysis.

Credit: National Academies of Sciences; Source: Bearak et al., 2017

“There are some requirements that require clinicians to misinform women of the health risks, that say you have to inform a woman that an abortion will increase her risk of breast cancer,” he says.

There is no evidence that breast cancer follows abortion, for example, but five states require doctors to tell women there is a link, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that focuses on reproductive and sexual health.

“There are policies that mandate clinically unnecessary services like pre-abortion ultrasounds, separate inpatient counseling. There are required waiting periods,” Calonge says.

According to Guttmacher, 27 states make women wait at least 24 hours for an abortion and 11 states require women to have an ultrasound before they can terminate their pregnancy.

And there are state laws that dictate who can perform abortions and where they can do them. Some require all abortions to happen in the equivalent of a hospital or surgery center. Others require a doctor to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

The National Academies report says waiting periods and requirements for unnecessary tests can result in long delays because women may have to travel to get care and have trouble getting appointments.

“Delays put the patient at greater risk of an adverse event,” the report says.

Hal Lawrence, the CEO of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, says the report settles the debate over abortion-restricting laws and regulations.

“Those sorts of laws have been totally debunked,” he says.

He says the study shows most of those laws do nothing to improve women’s health.

“Abortion is safer when it’s performed earlier in gestation,” Lawrence says. “And so delaying and making people wait and go through hoops of unnecessary, extra procedures does not improve the safety. And actually by having them delay can actually worsen the safety.”

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2016 voided some state abortion laws when it ruled that Texas’ strict rules around abortion facilities impose an undue burden on women. But other laws remain in place even without any backing in medical research.

Still, Donna Harrison says there are good reasons for the requirements.

“The tendency to look at abortion as though it were not a serious medical procedure is irresponsible. I mean, we all know that the fetus is killed during an abortion but women can be harmed by irresponsible medical care,” says Harrison, the executive director of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

She says data on complications from abortion is incomplete because doctors and patients don’t always report it accurately, or at all.

There is no good data collection — and when you have garbage in, and you have garbage out,” she says.

And she says waiting periods are important so that women can give fully informed consent before they undergo what she says is a sometimes dangerous, surgical procedure.

The new report — which runs more than 200 pages — addresses most aspects of abortion care, including the use of the abortion pill mifepristone.

For example, it concludes that the strict requirements on how doctors can administer mifepristone may need review. The researchers say the rules may be erecting unnecessary barriers.

The report also says nurse practitioners and physician assistants can perform abortions just as safely as physicians.

Also, abortions have no long-term consequences on women’s physical and mental health, the report says.


Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute said “abortion opponents may be looking to adding more requirements to abortion reporting in an effort to show that abortion is dangerous and providers dodgy.”

Wyoming health department records show fewer than five abortions were performed in the state over the past five years. But the true tally of abortions is higher.

Rewire.News’ findings come as anti-choice lawmakers in states across the United States have injected politics into the abortion reporting process. Advocates suggest these reporting requirements represent an underhanded attempt to paint abortion care as a dangerous procedure, though evidence says otherwise.

“I do not report to the state because it is none of their business,” Wyoming abortion provider Dr. Brent Blue told Rewire.News.

Wyoming law requires a report to the state health department within 20 days of every abortion.

Blue said he sends his reports to the Guttmacher Institute, a leading abortion rights think tank. Dr. Giovannina Anthony, who provides medication abortion and other OB-GYN services in Wyoming, said she does as well.

The two physicians are the chief abortion providers in a state where 96 percent of women live in a county without one, and hospitals very rarely provide the service. Most pregnant people in Wyoming seek terminations out of state, in Colorado, Montana, or Utah, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Yet, abortions also occur in Wyoming, although these procedures don’t show up in Wyoming health department reports. And the reason reveals a new beachhead in the abortion rights war.

Laws in nearly every state require physicians to send in a report every time they perform an abortion.

Anthony described the reporting as “for the most part a mandate generated by pro-life factions, to assist their cause in various ways.” She suggested the reports violate federal patient privacy law and unnecessarily single-out abortion, a very safe procedure, over others.

“They do not require a ‘report’ for all colonoscopies, for example, or for any other minor medical procedure,” she said of abortion reporting mandates.

Some state reports intrude on patient privacy, according to the Guttmacher Institute, posing loaded questions unrelated to public health. Oklahoma’s report, for example, asks whether the pregnancy was a result of “forcible rape.” A pending Arizona bill would expand its reports to ask if an aborted fetus was “delivered alive.” Some laws hew to draft legislation from the influential anti-choice group Americans United for Life, which maintains that “American abortion data is inaccurate and often misleading.”

Abortion reporting wasn’t always a political minefield.

In 1969, the CDC began collecting voluntary records on the demographics and the number of women having legal abortions in the United States. The CDC even created a template to aid consistent data collection, with questions on the patient’s age, race, ethnicity, marital status, education level, past pregnancies and their outcomes, the type of procedure, and location. The CDC’s template emphasized the data was to be used for statistical and research purposes only.

Today, 47 states and the District of Columbia voluntarily send aggregate abortion data to the CDC.

While the bedrock of this reporting by the CDC was public health, the motives have shifted in Republican-led statehouses. “We’re seeing abortion reporting become much more politicized,” said Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager with the Guttmacher Institute.

The legislative record bears this out. Mostly Republican-controlled states have advanced 80 new abortion reporting requirements since January 2017, with mixed success. These laws are mandates, not voluntary like the CDC’s data collection. Violators of reporting laws can be punished with “everything from a $10 fine to a loss of a license,” Nash noted.

Nash sees ties between the rising emphasis on abortion record-keeping and a landmark 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of abortion rights, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Justices struck down provisions in a sweeping Texas abortion law after the state failed to show its restrictions improved women’s health and safety.

The decision sent abortion rights foes scrambling to bolster future abortion restrictions with evidence. “So to build an evidence base, abortion opponents may be looking to adding more requirements to abortion reporting in an effort to show that abortion is dangerous and providers dodgy,” Nash explained. “The problem with this is that abortion is safe and has a very low complication rate.”

In Wyoming, a decades-old state law requires doctors to complete a one-page form every time they perform an abortion. The form asks, among other questions, about abortion complications. While the reporting is mandatory, the state levies no specific penalty for noncompliance. Lawmakers last year advanced a bill to levy a $1,000 fine on providers who did not comply with the reporting, but the bill died in committee.

The Wyoming health department in 2012 reminded providers of the abortion reporting requirement, said Mariah Storey, vital services unit supervisor with the Wyoming Department of Health. Since then, the department has “received less than five reports over the last five years,” Storey said in an email to Rewire.News. “Wyoming residents are likely leaving the state for those services.”

Wyoming residents do indeed seek abortion care outside the state. CDC records in 2014, the most recent year available, show 642 Wyoming residents terminated their pregnancies in Colorado, Montana, and Utah; the CDC had no data on the number of abortions performed in Wyoming that year.

It’s no secret that Blue and Anthony provide abortion services in Wyoming, as reproductive rights advocates acknowledge. Blue talked publicly last year about being an abortion care provider to Vice News. Moreover, Guttmacher surveys in 2011, 2013, and 2014 showed a total of 380 abortions in Wyoming—a sum far outpacing the state’s figures of fewer than five.

When asked about the discrepancy in the Wyoming’s health department numbers, Anthony offered an answer that illustrates the tension around abortion reporting. She directed Rewire.News to the Guttmacher Institute, not the state. “If you are looking for numbers, that is where you should focus your efforts,” she said. “Their stats appropriately assess the need for reproductive services. They do not ask intrusive, irrelevant questions.”


LONDON — Karen, a law student from a small town in rural Ireland, traveled for hours to get to London to have a secret abortion. The procedure is illegal in her own country, so she lied to her family and friends — everyone apart from her boyfriend and the American who arranged her trip to Britain, Mara Clarke.

The 8th amendment to the Irish constitution, passed in 1983, formally equates the “right to life of the unborn” fetus to the “right to life of the mother.” While terminating a pregnancy on Irish soil is against the law, barring a couple of exceptions, Irish women are permitted to travel abroad to terminate their pregnancies, and recent data indicates 3,265 women made journeys across the Irish sea to Britain in 2016.

Demonstrators hold posters as they march for more liberal Irish abortion laws, in Dublin

Demonstrators hold posters as they march for more liberal Irish abortion laws, in Dublin, Ireland, March 8, 2018.


Travel between the Republic of Ireland and the U.K. can be quick and relatively inexpensive — a budget flight from Dublin to London can be had for about $50 dollars. That cost, however, plus the cost of the procedure (usually between $600 and $2,000), as well as extra items like travel to Dublin from other parts of Ireland, can be prohibitively expensive for some women.

That is why Clarke, originally from Illinois, runs what she says is the only organization in the United Kingdom dedicated to providing financial and logistical assistance to Irish women who wish to travel to get an abortion.

From Illinois to England

Born in Le Grange, Illinois, Clarke moved to New York in the early 00’s, where she learned that women from around the country were traveling to secure second trimester abortions. This begged the question: what happened to those women who wanted to terminate their pregnancies but couldn’t pay to go to a place where the procedure was accessible?

“For me, that was just the moment I thought, wait a minute, abortion is legal but not everybody can get one, and how is that fair?” Clarke says.

In New York, Clarke started working with an organization that provided free homestays for women traveling to the city while they underwent what, at the time, was a two-day outpatient procedure. When she moved to England, she looked for similar programs in the U.K. for Irish women, but she couldn’t find any. So in 2009 Clarke founded the London-based Abortion Support Network.

In its first full year of operation, she says the Network heard from 89 people. In 2017, it got 1,009 requests for assistance.

Karen’s journey

Karen, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, found out she was pregnant while studying for her final law exams.

“I just felt like my whole life had been taken away from me, and everything I had worked for had just gone, just like that,” she says.

A student with aging parents and no income, she didn’t want to become a parent. Feeling unable to speak to her friends or family, she turned to the internet, where she found the Abortion Support Network and arranged a phone call with Clarke. She drove to an isolated parking lot to have the conversation.

“I just cried down the phone,” she recalls. “They asked me if I was financially in any way able to travel, because I knew I had to get an abortion, I just didn’t have the money to do it. I didn’t have the resources. I didn’t have a clue how to go about organizing it.”

With financial and logistical help, Karen traveled to London and terminated her pregnancy.

“I was just so devastated that in my time of need I couldn’t rely on my own country, on my own family, on my own friends to be there for me,” she says. “As a law student, as someone who believed in the justice system in this country, it’s a very bitter pill to swallow.”

Changing times?

Niamh Ui Bhraian, an Irish anti-abortion activist, says that a solution to situations like Karen’s is not to make abortions more accessible, but to bolster support for mothers at home.

“Most women that I know who have traveled for an abortion … are doing this … very often out of fear and panic,” Ui Bhraian tells CBS News.

“They’re afraid of their partner, afraid of their parents. They’re afraid they are going to lose their job… And to me that’s not about choice. It’s not giving women the support that they need.”


Demonstrators are pictured in this photo from the Rally for Life in Dublin, Ireland on March 13, 2018.


But for others, the answer is to reform Ireland’s strict laws so that women don’t have to travel to have abortions.

Calls for change grew louder in 2012 after the death of dentist Savita Halappanavar. At 17 weeks pregnant, Halappanavar began to miscarry and was hospitalized. As her condition worsened, she requested — but was denied — an abortion, because the continued presence of a fetal heartbeat made termination illegal. Halappanavar eventually died from septic shock.

Protests broke out in Dublin calling for a referendum on the repeal of the 8th amendment, and in 2016, the government convened a group of individuals from around the nation to assess a number of political questions, including abortion rights. Their report, which was delivered to parliament, recommended that the law be changed to allow unrestricted access to termination in early pregnancy. At the beginning of 2018, the government committed to holding a referendum before the end of May.

Ireland’s upcoming vote could mean the end of trips like Karen’s, but Clarke says she will continue running the Abortion Support Network until all Irish women are able to have abortions carried out legally at home.

“Abortion Support Network lives to be made obsolete,” Clarke tells CBS News, “but we will continue to help anyone who contacts us for as long as we can.”