Northern Ireland: Concern as mother who bought abortion pills for daughter to face criminal trial
Amnesty International is concerned that a date has been listed for the criminal trial of a mother who bought abortion pills online for her then 15-year-old daughter, despite the outcome of a judicial review challenging the decision to prosecute her still being unknown.
The mother’s challenge to the public prosecution service was heard in November 2018. Amnesty is an intervenor in the case.
Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Campaigns Manager, said:
“It is concerning that we don’t yet have an outcome in the judicial review, yet the case has been listed for trial. We need the judgment in the judicial review urgently.
“It’s 2019 and women are being hauled through the courts and treated as criminals. It is a glaring inequality that if this daughter had been living in any other part of the UK she could have accessed these pills freely on the NHS and moved on with her life. This grave injustice must end.
“The UK Government must act and stop grossly neglecting their responsibilities to women here. They cannot ignore the harm caused by these laws. We call on the Northern Ireland Secretary of State and the Women and Equalities Minister to treat this issue with the urgency it deserves.”
Jemma Conlon, solicitor for the mother, said:
“My client is a loving mother who helped her daughter when she needed it. Their lives are on hold whilst the fear of this pending prosecution looms over them. This family have been forced to relive the distress of this private family matter for the past six years. We will continue to fight this case.”
Background to the case
The mother – who cannot be named to ensure her daughter’s anonymity – is accused of two charges of unlawfully procuring and supplying abortion pills in 2013.
- “unlawfully procured a poison or other noxious thing, namely mifepristone and misoprostal, knowing that the same was intended to be unlawfully used or employed with intent to procure a miscarriage of the second applicant”.
- “unlawfully supplied a poison or other noxious thing, namely mifepristone and misoprostal, knowing that the same was intended to be unlawfully used or employed with intent to procure a miscarriage of the second applicant”.
At the time, the daughter was in a physically and mentally abusive relationship. When she became pregnant, she sought her mother’s support and assistance to have an abortion, having decided she did not want to continue with the pregnancy. When the pregnancy was terminated, they went to their GP seeking counselling services to deal with issues around the relationship. During the appointment, they disclosed the use of the pills. After being referred for counselling services, the mother was later interviewed by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) without a solicitor present. The mother was almost nine months pregnant and gave birth less than two weeks later. The PSNI gave the file to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) who then deemed it in the ‘public interest’ to prosecute the mother.
Medicated abortion pills are internationally regarded as a safe and recommended option for terminating a pregnancy. Mifepristone and Misoprostol are on the list of essential medicines of the World Health Organisation. However, the criminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland means that women and girls are forced to purchase these pills online, risking prosecution in doing so.