Belfast Telegraph

MLA's anger over police raid on pro-choice activist 'to search for abortion inducing tablets'

By Lisa Smyth

The deputy leader of the Green Party has slammed a police raid on a pro-choice campaigner.

It has been reported that the PSNI carried out searches for abortion pills at two properties in Belfast last week, including at the workshop of activist and artist Helen Crickard.

Officers had a warrant to confiscate Ms Crickard's phone and laptop.

It is understood police intercepted a package addressed to the property that contained abortion pills.

At least a dozen other activists have been invited by the PSNI for interview in the coming weeks.

South Belfast MLA Clare Bailey said she was disturbed by the latest action against pro-choice supporters.

"To the best of my knowledge, the police found nothing at Helen Crickard's address," the Green Party politician said.

"I am disturbed at what is happening and it is worth pointing out that these abortion tablets are on the World Health Organisation's list of essential medication, yet women in Northern Ireland are being denied access to them.

"We are choosing to criminalise women in Northern Ireland who use these tablets, so if a woman goes online and orders this medication they must be in some pretty desperate circumstances. The Assembly had been looking at legislation to legalise abortions for women in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, which doesn't go far enough.

"I would be really keen to see a government formed in Northern Ireland and I would like to bring forward a motion to debate this subject, because at the moment you have women in Northern Ireland being forced to travel outside of Northern Ireland for an abortion or, if they can't afford to do that, they are having to order medication from the internet.

"You are essentially attacking women who are from poorer backgrounds, and that is outrageous.

"I would like to know the reason for the recent increase in action by the police."

Women in England, Scotland and Wales are allowed to have an abortion within the first 24 weeks of their pregnancy if it is carried out in a hospital or a licensed clinic.

However, in Northern Ireland it is illegal for a termination to be carried out on a woman unless her life is at risk, or there is a serious risk of long-term damage to her health by continuing with the pregnancy.

The issue hit the headlines in recent years after a Belfast woman went public with her own harrowing ordeal after she was told her baby had a fatal defect following a scan at 19 weeks.

Sarah Ewart made the decision to travel to England for a termination after being warned delivering the baby would be lengthy, extremely painful and distressing due to the fact that its skull had not formed properly.

Since then a number of cases of women being arrested and charged for taking medication to bring on an abortion have been reported.

The medication, mifepristone and misoprostol, causes cramping and bleeding similar to a miscarriage.

While they are approved medications available on the NHS to women in the rest of the UK, they should be taken under medical supervision, and concerns have been raised about the safety of women from Northern Ireland who take the medication at home.

In addition, when accessing the medication on the internet, it is impossible to know whether the tablets are genuine.

Reacting to the news that police appear to be increasing action against women ordering abortion pills, pro-choice campaigner Courtney Robinson said: "It is beyond disgusting that the PSNI are raiding homes searching for abortion pills, which are an absolute lifeline to women needing abortion access across Ireland.

"They are scared of the pills because they make a mockery and a joke of our archaic laws.

"How much longer can they sit around pontificating about when women will be ready for a change in the law, when people are very regularly having safe abortions with the pills?

"Our politicians have no backbone and should hang their heads in shame that they preside over a law that allows this to happen."

Efforts by former Justice Minister David Ford to relax the laws in Northern Ireland relating to terminations in cases of fatal foetal abnormality have stalled since the collapse of the Assembly.

Attempts to contact the PSNI yesterday were unsuccessful.

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