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10th Mar 2013

Northern Irish Women Launch New Abortion Rights Protest That Could See Them Imprisoned

The women have publicly admitted that they have taken abortion-inducing pills and are calling for old laws regarding terminations to be lifted.

At the end of last year, the Irish Government confirmed that it plans to introduce legislation that allows abortions in Ireland under certain circumstances. While this marks a milestone in Irish history, the debate on abortion continues and now it’s after intensifying even more.

The Irish Independent reports that dozens of women in Northern Ireland have launched a new protest which carries the risk of imprisonment.

Over 100 women in the North of the country could be put behind bars after publicly admitting that they have taken abortion-inducing pills, which are illegal in the North.

The women have signed a letter where they each have openly confirmed that they bought the drugs from pro-choice charities on the internet and took them.

According to the 1861 Offences Against The Persons Act, abortion is illegal in most cases and if you have one, the penalty is life imprisonment. Despite the fact that it is also considered a serious offence to help someone have an abortion or procure one, several men who helped the women obtain the pills have also added their names to the letter.

The women admit to buying the pills on the internet

The North is the only part of the UK where women cannot get an abortion except in extreme circumstances, like when the mother’s life is at risk. As a result, every year, thousands of Northern Irish women make the journey to the UK in order to have terminations in English hospitals and clinics.

In the letter, the women admit that they have taken abortion pills themselves or helped other women to procure the pills.

“We represent just a small fraction of those who have used, or helped others to use, this method because it is almost impossible to get an NHS abortion here, even when there is likely to be a legal entitlement to one,” reads the letter.

“We were delighted when Marie Stopes [a specialised clinic] came to Belfast, as it meant that women who are unwell can access a doctor to supervise what we have done or helped others to do without medical help. And therefore have a right to a legal abortion here,” the letter continues.

Abortion and the need for abortion legislation became a hot topic of discussion after a woman named Savita Halappanavar died in Galway University Hospital after a miscarriage. Savita and her husband allegedly repeatedly asked for a termination of her pregnancy but they were refused it. Her husband alleged that medical staff in the hospital told them “this is a Catholic country” and refused to carry out the termination.

Savita’s death has sparked outrage in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland. Furthermore it has brought the topic of abortion into the spotlight and has caused women and men alike to question old laws set in place with regards to the issue.