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Abortion pills

Police in the North have confiscated abortion pills from pro-choice campaigners after a number of women ingested the prohibited drug outside a Belfast court. 

A number of demonstrators gathered outside Laganside Courthouse on Thursday afternoon to protest against Northern Ireland's strict abortion laws. 

The PSNI seized a remote controlled robot that was designed to distribute abortion pills with the support of two providers, Women on Web and Women on Waves. 

According to the Belfast Telegraph, Eleanor Crossey Malone, from socialist feminist movement Rosa, was one of those who took the pill in front of television cameras.

She said: "I have taken this in defiance of the extremely outdated, mediaeval, anti-choice laws that exist in Northern Ireland.

"We are not willing in the wake of the repeal referendum to be left behind any longer.

"Northern Ireland after repeal will be one of only two jurisdictions remaining in Europe to criminalise women effectively for having abortions.

"We are not willing to accept it any more."

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Belfast City Council have made the decision to decriminalise the use of abortion pills.

The motion comes just ahead of a trial, where a woman is being prosecuted for purchasing abortion pills for her teenage daughter. 

"The Council believes that abortion should be regulated like any other medical care and not by criminal law, while still enabling incidents of malpractice to be addressed, as with any other health service, through the general criminal law or medical disciplinary procedures," the motion read. 

“A woman who has an abortion is not a criminal, nor are healthcare professionals who care for them, and the law should not treat them as such.”

This move toward decriminilising abortion pills was put forward by Councillor Kate Nicholl of Alliance Party and backed by Councillor Mary Ellen Campbell of Sinn Féin.

Ms Campbell said that “it is wrong to criminalise women who choose to have an abortion… and also wrong to criminalise those healthcare professionals who have a duty of care to vulnerable patients”.

It passed with 34 votes for, 16 against and 5 non-votes.

Feature image: thejournal.ie

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Abortion pills bought online can provide a ‘safe and effective’ outcome for women who wish to have a non-surgical termination, according to a new study published in the British Medical Journal.

The study was carried out by a team at the University of Texas who, along with online group Women on Web, analysed data from over 1,000 women in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland who had sought to terminate unwanted pregnancies through the use of abortion pills. 

After seeking follow-up information from over 1,000 women in Ireland, researchers determined that 95 per cent of those who took these abortion pills had the desired result. 

Each of these women had previously purchased abortion pills online through WoW, and reported back on their experiences. 

78 per cent were under seven weeks pregnant, while the remaining 22 per cent were seven to nine weeks pregnant.

According to the study, 'self-sourced medical abortion provides a vital alternative to dangerous methods such as using sharp objects or noxious substance.'

93 women out of the 1,000 surveyed experienced symptoms which required them to seek medical attention, and 87 of these women actually did seek medical attention after taking the pills.

'No deaths…were reported by family, friends, the authorities of the media,' the study authors wrote in the British Medical Journal report.

The purchase and import of abortion pills is currently illegal in the Republic of Ireland, as well as in Northern Ireland.

However, recent developments have been made thanks to the Citizens' Assembly and the work of the Repeal Project, with calls for the 8th Amendment which prohibit abortion to be changed or abolished. 

'Often media reports in Ireland imply early medical abortion with pills is unsafe – this study shows that that simply isn’t the case,' said Abortion Rights Campaign spokesperson Linda Kavanagh in a statement.

'In countries where medical abortion is legal, women are largely unsupervised while taking the pill.'

'In the UK for example women ingest the first pill at an abortion clinic, but then go home to have their abortion.'

'Our governments continue to shirk their responsibility to women despite having a clear mandate to introduce proper abortion access North and South, following the results of the Citizens’ Assembly and various reports by human rights watchdogs,' she continued.

'Our politicians are happy to outsource their responsibility to other countries and organisations that provide the abortion pill illegally.'

'Our current laws are irresponsible, cowardly and lazy. If the physical and mental health of women on this island is being put at risk, it is the fault of our legislators – and not these pills which have been used safely, in both supervised and unsupervised contexts for almost 30 years,' she concluded

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According to figures from the Health Products Regulatory Authority, there was a significant decline in the amount of abortion pills seized by customs last year.

536 abortion pills were seized at Ireland’s boarders in 2016, 200 less than 2015 and more than 500 less than the 2014 figures.

According to The Irish Times, Irish women are beginning to use Northern Ireland addresses in order to bypass Irish border controls and gain access to the medication.

A spokesperson for the regulatory authority warned patients of the risks involved with ordering the medication online: “There is no way of knowing how safe these medicines are or if they will work properly.”

Rebecca Gomperts, founder of Women on Web, a website where Irish women can order misoprostol and mifepristone, does not believe the drop in the amount of pills being confiscated represents a drop in the number of women who are accessing the medication.

‘’Women will find other addresses outside Ireland to receive the medical abortion pills.”

She continued, “It is widely known that making abortion illegal does not stop women from having abortions.”

The news follows a meeting of the Citizens Assembly over the weekend where the majority voted for access to abortions without restrictions.

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A free helpline aimed at assisting women who have used online abortion pills is set to be launched across the county.

According to The Independent, The British Pregnancy Advisory Service will be providing women in Ireland with confidential aftercare while offering reassurance and advice to those who have taken tablets ordered from two websites.

Commenting on the launch, BPAS chief executive Ann Furedi said: "What these women really need are accessible, high-quality abortion services at home."

Acknowledging the Repeal the 8th debate currently raging across the country, she added: "They shouldn't have to make the choice between travelling to England and breaking the law by purchasing pills online."

"While we wait for politicians to do the right thing, BPAS will provide telephone aftercare to women who have bought pills online from these two women's organisations and who want to speak to someone in confidence about what they are experiencing, or who simply need a reassuring voice at the end of the line,"

As it stands in the Republic, the offence of procuring an abortion carries a potential 14-year jail sentence while in Northern Ireland the maximum penalty for the crime of administering a drug to induce miscarriage is life imprisonment.

It is understood that the new helpline staffed by nurses will be advertised in newspapers in Ireland, Northern Ireland, and the Isle of Man.

The announcement has been met with criticism from Pro-Life campaigners.

Niamh Uí Bhriain of Life Institute argued: "Maybe they would consider putting this time and money into actually helping women, who are all too often seeking abortions in fear and panic, have their babies and raise their babies."

 

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