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Drone delivers abortion pills as activists slam 'outdated' laws

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Published 22/06/2016

A drone with tablets at Narrow Water Castle, Warrenpoint, Co Down. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
A drone with tablets at Narrow Water Castle, Warrenpoint, Co Down. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Courtney Robinson takes a pill during the protest yesterday

Police kept a close eye as pro-choice activists delivered abortion pills to women in Northern Ireland using a drone yesterday.

The stunt, described as an act of solidarity, aimed to highlight the strict laws around terminations on both sides of the border.

Courtney Robinson (18), from Belfast, who took the tablets, said: "We are here to say we are going to defy the law in helping women obtain these pills, and we are going to work to make the law unworkable and stand in solidarity with all those women who want to have an abortion and have the right to do so in Northern Ireland."

The drone flight started at Omeath in Co Louth and landed a short distance away, near Narrow Water Castle in Co Down, shortly after 10am.

Ms Robinson, a member of Labour Alternative, explained: "The reason we are doing this is to highlight that these pills are available to women who are not able to travel outside of Northern Ireland for an abortion.

"I have no concerns. I know the pills are safe. As long as the politicians in Stormont and the Dail continue to ignore human rights, we will continue with our campaign."

A number of uniformed and plainclothes police officers who were at the landing site spoke to organisers and recorded events on video, but no action was taken to confiscate the medication, which had been prescribed by a doctor. Traffic was, however, stopped on the main road while the drone was in the air.

The drugs, Mifepristone and Misoprostol, can be taken up to nine weeks into a pregnancy and have been approved for use by the World Health Organisation since 2005.

Lucy Simpson, from Belfast, who also took tablets, said legal reform was urgently needed. "The law is archaic," she added. "We are governed in Northern Ireland by an Act which is dated 1861, which is in the Dark Ages. It's like when the dinosaurs were on Earth.

"We think that the law should be changed, and radically, and we just cannot really wait any longer. Thousands of women suffer every year in Northern Ireland and the Republic, having to travel abroad for abortions and go through traumatic times. We feel that now is the time to change legislation."

The event was organised by a collaboration of pro-choice groups, including Alliance For Choice, Rosa, Labour Alternative and Women On Waves, which staged a similar flight from Germany into Poland.

The groups said no laws had been broken, adding in a statement: "The abortion drone will mark the different reality for Irish women to access safe abortion services compared to women in other European countries where abortion is legal."

In Northern Ireland, the maximum penalty for the crime of administering a drug to induce miscarriage under the Offences Against The Person Act 1861, is life imprisonment.

In April, a 21-year-old woman was handed a suspended sentence by a judge in Belfast after she bought drugs on the internet to induce a miscarriage because she could not afford to fly to England.

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