Northern Ireland Woman Sentenced Over Self-Induced Abortion

Photographed by Rockie Nolan
A 21-year-old woman in Northern Ireland has been given a suspended jail sentence for successfully carrying out a home abortion two years ago, using drugs she procured on the internet. The woman's housemates reported her abortion to local authorities days after the successful termination. The woman, who has since given birth to a child, now faces prosecution — because Northern Ireland is the only part of the U.K. where abortion remains illegal.
According to The Guardian, the woman pleaded guilty in court on Monday, acknowledging that she did purchase drugs online for use in a home abortion. She was handed a three-month sentence, suspended for two years. Her lawyer told Belfast crown court that in no other part of the U.K. would the woman “have found herself before the courts” for choosing to terminate her pregnancy.

The woman had looked into traveling to England to have the abortion, but was not able to afford the transportation costs. After visiting a clinic, she learned about drugs she could purchase online that would induce a miscarriage. After her housemates tipped off the police, officers arrived and found a fetus in a trash bag. The woman's lawyer argued that the woman hardly knew her housemates and felt “isolated and trapped…with no one to turn to.”

The law that makes abortions (aside from some rare examples) illegal in Northern Ireland falls under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and means that women who are found guilty can be jailed for life. It is remarkable that this law still exists, as it continues to outrage many of Northern Ireland's inhabitants; last year, a poll indicated that 68% of people supported the legalization of abortion following a sex crime or fatal fetal abnormality. And yet the law still stands.

A representative from The British Pregnancy Advisory Service called for immediate change: “We call on all politicians to repeal these antiquated, Victorian laws and create an abortion framework fit for women in 2016. We deserve nothing less.”
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