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Termination pills protest over 'archaic' legislation

By Suzanne Breen

A group of pro-choice activists are set to break the law next week by driving a bus around Northern Ireland to distribute abortion pills.

Some of the women will swallow the tablets before they set out from Belfast in defiance of what they say is "our archaic abortion legislation".

They will then travel to the offices of MLAs from Northern Ireland's four main political parties where they will stage a protest.

The bus will stop at Lisburn, Cookstown and Londonderry during their journey.

They are accusing the DUP, Sinn Fein, the Ulster Unionists and SDLP of "failing the women of Northern Ireland".

The 'abortion bus' is being run by the feminist group ROSA (Reproductive rights, against Oppression, Sexism and Austerity) which has held many similar actions in the Republic.

As votes are counted today in the Republic's referendum on the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, ROSA said "the campaign to give women reproductive rights" must become much more active on this side of the border.

Eleanor Crossey Malone of ROSA said: "We work with Women on Web, a doctor-run organisation that prescribes safe abortion pills to women in countries where abortion is banned or inaccessible.

"About 20 of our members will travel on the bus on Thursday and some will take abortion pills.

"We will do so in defiance of the archaic abortion law here.

"If the Republic votes to repeal the Eighth Amendment, Northern Ireland will be the last jurisdiction in Europe - apart from Malta - with an almost blanket ban on abortion and where women are criminalised."

Ms Crossey Malone was critical of all local political parties on the issue. "The DUP are outspokenly anti-choice but the SDLP is also very conservative," she said.

"Sinn Fein may change their policy soon at a special ard fheis but they have very much been playing catch-up with public opinion. The Ulster Unionists and Alliance have decided abortion is a matter of conscience for their individual politicians but that is not the same as clearly and unambiguously supporting a woman's right to choose."

Dutch doctor, Rebecca Gompert, will travel on the bus with the women and address meetings in Belfast and Derry next week.

Ms Crossey Malone said: "We are doing this in solidarity with the thousands of Northern Ireland women who have taken abortion pills over the past decade here.

"They do so in fear of the police knocking on their door.

"In cases where there are medical complications, they fear going to their GP in case they are reported to the authorities.

"A woman was reported to police by her flatmates two years ago.

"This is no way for young women to live.

"Abortion pills are on the World Health Organisation's list of essential medicines."

Ms Crossey Malone said the idea for an 'abortion bus' came from the famous 1971 contraceptive train, where feminists travelled from Dublin to Belfast to buy condoms as a symbolic act of defiance against the Republic's law preventing their importation and sale.

Asked about the proposed 'abortion bus', a PSNI spokeswoman said; "This is not a policing matter at this time."

Ms Crossey Malone said the PSNI had contacted the group before when it had announced it was flying abortion pills into Northern Ireland by drone from Omeath in Co Louth.

"The PSNI were present at the event near Narrow Water Castle but they did not take action," she said.

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