Friday 13 August 2010

There's no evidence for pro-abort claim about Polish abortions in Britain

The Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning has been promoting the figure of 10,000 Polish women coming to the UK each year for abortion. Paul Tully, SPUC's general secretary, and Daniel Blackman, who researches international affairs for SPUC, have debunked this claim. They have concluded that:
"There is no solid evidence to support this. It appears that the figure is self-serving speculation."
I publish their analysis in full below.

All abortions in the UK must be registered
The number of registered, legal abortions performed in England and Wales is published each year by the Department of Health of the British government. Abortions performed in Scotland are published separately by the Health Department of the Scottish government. (Scottish abortions account for about 7% of the UK total.) Here, for simplicity, we consider only the England and Wales figures.

The Department of Health is the main provider of abortions in the UK. These abortions are funded through the state-funded National Health Service (NHS) and are performed either in NHS-owned hospitals or with NHS funding in privately-run clinics. About six percent of abortions are performed in privately-run clinics and are paid for privately. These include a proportion which are performed on overseas women not entitled to NHS funding.

Britain has a reciprocal agreement with Poland for the provision of free medical care under EU regulations. The minimum documentation a patient needs is a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

No official estimate of Polish ‘visitor’ abortions
The Department of Health’s Statistical Bulletin: Abortion Statistics, England and Wales: 2009 says that for 2009, there were 20 women resident in Poland who had abortions here, which accounted for 0.3% of all abortions on non-resident women. (Table 12a Legal abortions: non residents by country of residence, 2009) This only records those women who said that they were resident in Poland when applying for an abortion. There may be other women who came here for abortions but gave the address of a friend already living in the UK. We are not aware of any study or survey by the Department of Health or any other body to establish an official estimate of this number accurately.

It would be difficult to make an accurate estimate, especially as there is a sizable number of Polish women resident in the UK. One would expect that there are probably a certain number of UK-resident Polish women who have abortions. This means that it would not necessarily be remarkable if, say, a Polish-speaking woman sought an abortion.

Abortions on non-residents are in decline
In 2009, there were 6,643 abortions to residents of other countries compared with 6,862 in 2008. Principally, these non-residents were from Northern Ireland (17%) and the Irish Republic (67%). The number of abortions to non-residents remained between 9,000 and 10,000 in the period 1995 to 2003. The 2009 total is the lowest in any year since 1969.

It would seem unlikely in this context that a growing number of women from Poland are coming to Britain for abortions, especially not on the scale of thousands.

Polish migration
In 2008, there were 64,000 Polish immigrants coming into the UK. Assuming that about half are women, and that the large majority are of child-bearing age, gives a figure of, say 30,000. If 10,000 women were to have an abortion, that would mean one third of the Polish women coming to the UK are coming here to have an abortion. This would seem hugely implausible. There is no evidence for this.

Lack of plausibility
Would women travel to a foreign country, find accommodation (which is very expensive in the UK), find employment (which can be difficult at present), register with the necessary agencies for NHS treatment, etc., given:
(a) the time all this would take (some weeks or months)
(b) the cost it would incur (travel, accommodation – rent, deposit, insurance – employment expenses, etc.)
c) the administration involved (e.g. getting references for accommodation and work)
d) the social isolation often entailed (language difficulty; lack of friends
- when they could book an abortion at a private clinic, probably for much less cost, and certainly far less time and hassle?

In summary
The claim lacks substance and credibility.

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