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05th Apr 2016

Abortion Rights Campaign Call For A Reform Of Northern Ireland’s Abortion Laws

Ellen Tannam

The Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC) are calling for reform of Northern Ireland’s abortion laws and extension of the 1967 Abortion Act following yesterday’s sentencing of a woman who procured her own abortion in Northern Ireland by means of a pill.

If this woman had lived in any other jurisdiction in the UK she would not have been brought before the courts as abortion access is legally available on the NHS. The woman, who was 19 at the time was too poor to afford the travel costs.

ARC spokesperson Linda Kavanagh said:

“In actuality, this woman was convicted for being too poor to travel to England for an abortion. She pleaded guilty on her lawyer’s advice, and while she will not spend time in prison she now has a criminal record.”

“Following the outrage over comments made by Donald Trump last week, we see the sad reality here on this island – women are punished for accessing abortions illegally.”

“Until abortion is decriminalised in Ireland, North and South, this will continue to happen. Women who can afford to travel have choices, and those who can’t are punished.”

Kavanagh also made the point that prosecutions like this will not result in fewer abortions, but will instead just increase fear and stigma attached to what is just a medical procedure.

“Cases like this make it more likely for women to have their illegal abortions alone, and will mean they are less likely to get in touch with medical professionals on those rare occasions when things do go wrong for fear of prosecution.”

Spokesperson Janet O’Sullivan added:

“The ‘poison’ referenced in the charges is the Abortion pill, which is listed as an ‘essential medicine’ by the World Health Organisation. It is a disgrace that she was charged under a Victorian law in 2016 for accessing a procedure which is free, safe and legal across the Irish sea.”

The Abortion Rights Campaign are taking part in the Amnesty #NotACriminal demonstration this week outside of Leinster House which is calling for decriminalisation of abortion in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

(Image via Abortion Rights Campaign)