Responding to reports today that a 21-year-old woman has been 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), Amnesty International Northern Ireland Director Patrick Corrigan said:
“We’re utterly appalled by the court’s decision to impose a suspended prison sentence on this woman. A woman who needs an abortion is not a criminal. The law should not treat her as such. This tragic case reveals, yet again, that making abortion illegal does not stop women in Northern Ireland needing or seeking terminations.
“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 should lead the way in reforming abortion laws to bring them into line with international standards.”
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.
“Of course, Northern Ireland is not alone in criminalising women and girls who have abortions. Here in the Republic, a possible 14 year prison sentence is provided for if a woman has an abortion in any circumstances other than where she might die under legislation enacted less than three years ago. In a recent Amnesty International/Red C poll, 72% of people said here said that they want abortion to be decriminalised. Abortion must be decriminalised in Northern Ireland and in the Republic,” said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland.
Amnesty International Ireland is continuing a daily demonstration outside government buildings calling on political parties and groupings to prioritise abortion reform in negotiations towards a new government. Our Red C poll found that 80% of people would vote yes in a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment. Each day, a further twelve people join the demonstration representing the 12 women and girls who will travel to the UK every day for abortions.