Belfast Telegraph

Police seize 100-plus packets of illegal abortion pills in raids

By Allan Preston

The PSNI took possession of more than 100 packets of illegal abortion pills in recent raids, it has been reported.

It's understood police are using the addresses on seized packages to track down those suspected of ordering the pills or assisting in their delivery.

The Times newspaper revealed that, in some cases, the parents of young women who attempted to procure the medication only found out when police arrived at their home.

The PSNI was contacted for a comment on the matter yesterday, but is yet to respond.

The newspaper said that police have interviewed a "small number of people" in the past six months, with 15 cases in the first two weeks of March alone.

Earlier this month Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton confirmed that two raids had taken place on March 4, which was International Women's Day.

The Belfast Telegraph also reported that police swooped on the workshop of activist and artist Helen Crickard after intercepting a package addressed to the property that contained abortion pills. At least a dozen other activists were invited to attend a PSNI interview.

The seized drugs - mifepristone and misoprostol - induce abortion and have been ordered online by women who cannot afford to travel to England to procure a legal termination. The medication in question causes cramping and bleeding similar to a miscarriage.

A spokeswoman for the Belfast Feminist Network condemned the seizures.

"The failure of our government to legislate for Northern Ireland does not stop people from having abortions.

"Those who can afford it travel to the UK, which is perfectly legal.

"Our laws therefore target the less wealthy and more vulnerable.

"The criminalisation of pregnant people who are seeking healthcare that is freely available to other UK citizens is also dangerous; the fact that police called to people's homes endangers young people whose families may not be supportive and those in abusive relationships."

Although the pills are NHS-approved in the rest of the UK, they are supposed to be taken under supervision. Concerns have been raised about the safety of women from Northern Ireland taking them at home and, as they are bought online, guaranteeing they are genuine.

Abortion remains illegal in Northern Ireland except in limited circumstances, such as if the woman's life is in danger or there is a serious risk to her long-term health.

Efforts by Alliance MLA David Ford to relax the law in cases of fatal foetal abnormality have stalled since the collapse of the Assembly.

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