Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Police launch probe after 100 women admit taking or buying abortion pills

Audrey Simpson, Director of Family Planning Association in NI
Audrey Simpson, Director of Family Planning Association in NI
Rev David McIlveen, Free Presbyterian minister
Rev David McIlveen, Free Presbyterian minister

A woman who is one of 100 people who admitted breaking the law by taking or helping to buy abortion pills has wished police "good luck" in seeking prosecutions.

The PSNI said it is examining the open letter, signed by more than 100 people, which was published by Alliance for Choice.

The signatories provided their name and location for the document – which lists people who have taken the abortion pill or helped women here to procure it.

The 1861 Offences against the Person Act, which carries a life sentence, makes it illegal to procure drugs to cause an abortion.

Abortion is currently illegal in Northern Ireland unless a woman's life is at risk or there is a risk of permanent and serious damage to her health.

A PSNI spokeswoman on Sunday confirmed that police are "assessing" the contents of the letter.

The Alliance for Choice group claims a plan by the DUP and SDLP to criminalise abortions performed outside the NHS will close the Marie Stopes' abortion services and stifle the debate.

Their joint proposal to amend the Criminal Justice Bill will be debated at Stormont on Tuesday.

Goretti Horgan from Alliance for Choice said more and more women have used abortion-inducing pills, bought on the internet, over the past six years here.

One signatory, Derry student Natalie Biernat (21), appealed to more women who have used abortion pills to speak out.

"I know at least 20 people who have either had abortions or helped someone to get an abortion," she told the Belfast Telegraph. "I would say good luck in physically prosecuting anyone."

The debate over abortion law here has been heating up.

A newly-formed All Values Group, headed by Dana (Rosemary Scallon) and the DUP, came together to oppose any change to the law. Justice Minister David Ford has gone head-to-head with Health Minister Edwin Poots, after Mr Ford said he would the oppose the proposed amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill.

Mr Ford said the amendment could "potentially... criminalise certain forms of contraception and it would be liable to be challenged in the courts".

Mr Poots accused Mr Ford of attempting to "cause confusion and unnecessary concern" with "speculative comments".

Factfile

  • The UK's 1967 Abortion Act, which allows terminations in a wide range of circumstances, does not apply in Northern Ireland.
  • The Family Planning Association has repeatedly pressed for clear guidelines for health professionals here and although a 20-page document was produced in 2009, it was challenged by anti-abortionists. New guidelines are expected to be considered soon.

Women are saying 'enough is enough'

FOR: Audrey Simpson, Director of Family Planning Association in NI

The Family Planning Association went to the High Court in Belfast in a bid to force the Department of Health to issue abortion guidelines for healthcare professionals. The draft guidelines were sent to MLAs last week.

These are women that are brave. These are women who have said: 'enough is enough'.

They are forcing the Assembly to face up to the reality of the situation in Northern Ireland.

We have no idea how many (women) do this, because obviously women know what they are doing is illegal and in the (abortion) guidelines it sets out that if you have an abortion here you are liable to life imprisonment.

What are the Assembly going to do? Are they going to round these women (who signed the open letter) up and put them in court? Who knows what's going to happen (as a result of the open letter). I do not know. But this is hugely symbolic, because it's the ordinary women who are standing up and saying, 'we need a change in Northern Ireland'.

The value of life needs protected

AGAINST: Rev David McIlveen, Free Presbyterian minister

The news that 100 women in Northern Ireland have publicly acknowledged that they have induced abortions is both distressing and disturbing.

While I cannot personally ignore the feelings of pastoral concern for the women, I can neither encourage nor endorse what they have reportedly done.

Their actions are not only illegal, and as such present a challenge to our legal system, but they are reprehensible. The destruction of life in the womb is a crime against the unborn child and therefore must be unreservedly condemned.

It is a cause for regret that constant pressure is being exerted upon the authorities to capitulate to the pro-abortion lobby.

No one should be in any doubt that life within the womb should not be subjected to the barbarity of an abortion.

Society must not allow itself to become indifferent to the value of a life that, according to the word of God, "is fearfully and wonderfully made".

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