Women who had abortions ‘suffered workplace stigmatisation’, North study finds

Many women who had an abortion suffered workplace stigmatisation and isolation in Northern Ireland as a result, a survey has said.

Some were unable to access sick leave and pay. A quarter wanted time off but could not afford to lose the money, the trade union study showed.

Patricia McKeown, regional secretary of public service union Unison, said it was a hugely important piece of research.

“It provides insight into the very real impact on working women of making the choice to terminate a pregnancy.”

A total of 3,200 people, 2,031 from Northern Ireland, responded to the survey conducted by Ulster University and commissioned by five trade unions as well as pro-choice campaigners.

Dr Fiona Bloomer, lead researcher for Ulster University, is expected to tell a launch event later: “This research study, the first of its kind globally, provides clear evidence that abortion is a workplace issue.

“Their experiences ranged from stigma, isolation, lack of support to being unable to access sick leave or sick pay, often due to precarious employment.

“This study provides a clear evidence base for the trade union movement to not only continue to lobby for legal reform but also to campaign for workplace policies which support women.”

A majority of those asked did not support a total ban on access to abortion and favoured legal reform in Northern Ireland, which has the strictest restrictions in the UK.

Key findings from Northern Irish respondents included:

– 61% agreed or strongly agreed that current restrictions on abortion were cruel and inhumane

– 85% said a woman should not be arrested and prosecuted for having a termination

– 19% had direct experience of abortion as a workplace issue

Of those with direct experience:

– 43% struggled to pay for the costs

– 24% wanted time off afterwards but could not afford to lose wages

– 12% needed time off and were able to get sick pay

– 9% needed time off and used unpaid leave

- Press Association

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