Students can become pregnant during their studies and their access to reproductive healthcare services, including abortion, can impact their personal and academic lives.
Students who need to travel to access abortion services or who take safe but illegal abortion pills at home may have to take time out from their studies which can negatively impact on their academic attendance.
Students who move to Northern Ireland to study sign away their rights to abortion access when they register with a local GP.
Students who are victims or survivors of abuse, disabled students, students with caring responsibilities, trans and non-binary students and others can face additional barriers to accessing abortion services.
Obtaining an early medical abortion with safe but illegal abortion pills is often the only option for students who face additional barriers when travelling to access abortion or find it impossible to travel altogether. These students are unable to disclose their experiences to friends and family, or access aftercare without risking prosecution. The inherent isolation of this experience can also negatively impact emotional wellbeing.
International students on Tier 4 visas must record their attendance at university to comply with the terms of their visa, which makes it harder for them to travel to access abortion outside the North of Ireland.
Some students can’t travel due to their asylum or refugee status: visa restrictions and a lack of identity documentation can also prevent people from travelling outside Northern Ireland for abortion.
Students often have very limited financial resources. Although people who travel from Northern Ireland to England to access a termination are eligible to receive free abortion care on the NHS as of November 2017, the cost and logistics of arranging transport, accommodation, childcare, time off from work and studies continue to present practical barriers to students accessing abortion outside Northern Ireland. The financial pressure of this can also negatively impact emotional wellbeing.
The emotional impact of an unwanted pregnancy in itself can be immensely stressful. Societal stigma regarding crisis pregnancy and abortion may prevent students from disclosing their pregnancy and seeking support, regardless of what choice they make about continuing the pregnancy. Information regarding abortion services is not available through local health services, leaving students in crisis pregnancy unsure of where to go to seek support.
A lack of access to abortion can impact students in Northern Ireland financially, emotionally and physically. NUS-USI is committed to advocating for free, safe, legal and local abortion access for anyone who needs it, including students.