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6th April 2016, 14:25:54 UTC

Responding to another ‘abortion pills’ case which came before the courts in Belfast this morning – of a woman accused of supplying pills for her daughter to have a miscarriage – Amnesty International Northern Ireland Director Patrick Corrigan said:

“Yet again we have the grotesque spectacle of the might of Northern Ireland’s criminal justice system lined up against a woman who simply wanted to access a service freely available on the NHS in every other part of the UK. The criminalisation of women in Northern Ireland must stop. Reproductive healthcare must be taken out of the realm of criminal justice and addressed as an issue of public health and human rights. Abortion should be a matter for women and their doctors, not judges. Northern Ireland’s abortion law must be changed to bring it into line with international standards. Abortion must be decriminalised and women should be able to access free and legal abortions in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, rape and incest.”

Michelle Beyers of Amnesty International was in Belfast Crown Court this morning to observe the arraignment, which was adjourned until April 27th. A woman is accused of two charges of unlawfully procuring pills known for their use in terminating pregnancies. She cannot be named to ensure her daughter’s identity is not revealed. The alleged offences were said to have occurred at a location in Belfast on dates in 2013.

Earlier this week a 21-year-old Northern Ireland woman was given a three-month suspended sentence after pleading guilty to two charges (namely procuring her own abortion by using a poison, and of supplying a poison with intent to procure a miscarriage).

Medicated abortion pills are internationally regarded as a safe and recommended option for terminating a pregnancy in the first trimester. Mifepristone and Misoprostol are on the list of essential medicines of the World Health Organization. However, the criminalisation of abortion means that women and girls take these pills without effective medical supervision and therefore potentially resulting in serious health complications.

“A woman who needs an abortion is not a criminal and the law should not treat her as such. Here in the Republic, women face a potential 14 year prison sentence if they have an abortion in any circumstances other than where their lives are at risk. This case reveals, yet again, that making abortion illegal does not stop women from needing terminations. Instead of punishing women for seeking the healthcare they need, the incoming government must reform our abortion laws bringing them into line with international human rights standards. The Irish people support this view with 71% calling for the decriminalisation of abortion in a recent Amnesty International/Red C poll. The next government must not turn their backs on women, and on the Irish public, who overwhelmingly share our demand for change,” said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland.