News release Issued by the Abortion Rights Campaign Tuesday 12 January 2016


We condemn the arrest and prosecution of a 21 year old woman in County Down who has been accused of using poison to procure abortion. Both Mifepristone and Misoprostol are on the World Health Organization’s list of essential drugs; these drugs are not poison. These are the same drugs used for medical abortions in the rest of the UK. If this woman lived in England instead of Northern Ireland she would have been prescribed this medication on the NHS. Mifepristone and Misoprostol are also routinely used for miscarriage management.

The prosecution of this woman shows the utter hypocrisy of this law, as women such as Suzanne Lee of Alliance for Choice have challenged the PSNI to arrest her for the same offence.

These charges are based on the archaic Offences Against the Person Act of 1861. The rest of the UK has since repealed the abortion provision of this act and it is time for Northern Ireland to follow suit. Women in the North should be entitled to the same access to healthcare as women in England, Scotland and Wales.

Speaking today, Janet O’Sullivan of the Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC) said: “ARC is an all-island campaign and we call on the Assembly at Stormont to extend the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland, and end this unfair treatment inflicted on a minority of UK residents.”

“In the Republic of Ireland this same offence would carry a 14 year prison sentence under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act of 2013. The recent Amnesty Red C poll shows that the vast majority of people in Ireland (almost 9 in 10) do not support the criminalisation of abortion. In both Northern Ireland and in the Republic there is support for broadening abortion access.”

Also commenting, Linda Kavanagh of ARC said: “Northern Ireland’s abortion laws are a breach of women’s human rights. Women in Ireland will always need abortions and they will continue to self administer or, if they can afford it, exercise their so-called right-to-travel to end an unwanted pregnancy. The number of legal abortions performed in Northern Ireland has fallen over the last 2 years because medical staff are afraid of prosecution, leaving women forced to break the law to maintain bodily autonomy.”