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Northern Ireland second abortion pills case: 'Grotesque spectacle' of women before courts must end

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.

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