Northern Ireland’s cruel and outdated abortion laws must be urgently reformed, said Amnesty International today in response to reports that a 21-year-old woman from Northern Ireland is at risk of life imprisonment if found guilty of allegedly supplying and taking so-called ‘abortion pills’.
The woman faces two charges: the first involves unlawfully taking poisonous substances, namely the drugs Mifepristone and Misoprostol, to terminate the pregnancy. The second charge is supplying or procuring a poison, knowing that it was to be used to induce a miscarriage.
The medicated abortion pills are internationally regarded as a safe and recommended option for terminating a pregnancy in the first trimester. The criminalisation of abortion means that women and girls take these pills without effective medical supervision and therefore potentially resulting in serious health complications.
Northern Ireland and Ireland have some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world.
Last year, the United Nations expressed concern about the situation in Northern Ireland and urged reform. Meanwhile in November last year Northern Ireland’s own High Court in Belfast found the legal framework on abortion to breach women and girls’ human rights.
Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland programme director Patrick Corrigan said:
“Making abortion illegal does not stop women in Northern Ireland needing or seeking alternative methods.
Amnesty International's Northern Ireland programme director Patrick Corrigan said: Making abortion illegal does not stop women in Northern Ireland needing or seeking alternative methods.
“Northern Ireland’s draconian and discriminatory abortion laws treats ordinary women and girls like criminals.
“Women in Northern Ireland feel forced to take matters into their own hands, because there is no access to abortion for women who require it.
“By denying access to healthcare services, Northern Ireland is violating women and girls’ human rights, as has now been established in Belfast’s High Court.
“Instead of sanctioning women and girls for seeking the healthcare they need, the Northern Ireland Executive must urgently reform its cruel and outdated abortion laws to bring them into line with at least the minimum international human rights standards.”
Amnesty International’s My Body, My Rights campaign aims to stop the criminalisation and control of sexual and reproductive rights and to empower women to claim those rights.