STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Woman prosecuted over abortion pills appeals in Northern Ireland court

A court in Northern Ireland will hear a landmark abortion case Thursday as a woman appeals the decision to p...

Posted: Sep 20, 2018 1:52 PM
Updated: Sep 20, 2018 1:52 PM

A court in Northern Ireland will hear a landmark abortion case Thursday as a woman appeals the decision to prosecute her for buying abortion pills for her 15-year-old daughter in 2013.

The woman, who is not being named to protect her daughter's anonymity, has been accused of buying the pills online and giving them to the teen, criminal actions under Northern Ireland law.

Abortion

Abortion rights

Continents and regions

Europe

Health and medical

Medical treatments and procedures

Northern Europe

Northern Ireland

Sexual and reproductive health

Societal issues

Society

United Kingdom

According to Amnesty International, this is the first time a prosecution relating to the country's abortion laws is being challenged. If the woman's appeal is unsuccessful, she would face a criminal trial and up to five years in jail, Amnesty said.

Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland except in cases where the life or health of the mother is at risk. The 1967 Abortion Act, which made abortion broadly legal in the rest of the UK, has never been extended to Northern Ireland, where a law created in 1861 is still in force. Abortion in cases of rape, incest and fatal fetal abnormality remains illegal.

In a statement from Amnesty, the woman at the center of Thursday's hearing said she had endured "five years of agony" since first facing the prospect of prosecution. It is "there at every important moment of my and my children's lives -- just hanging over me," she said. "The fear and the pain of it all."

'This mother is not a criminal'

Campaigners are hopeful that recent events in the Irish republic -- where the President this week officially repealed a constitutional amendment that banned abortion in the wake of a resounding referendum vote in favor of changing the law -- could spark change north of the border.

In June, the UK Supreme Court narrowly ruled that current abortion legislation in Northern Ireland is "incompatible" with the European Convention on Human Rights. But decisions on abortion law are the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Assembly, which has been suspended since January 2017.

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty's Northern Ireland campaign manager, described the accusations against the woman as "devastating" and urged the judges to see the charges as "unfair cruelty."

"This mother is not a criminal. Her daughter is not a criminal. Women who want to access abortions in Northern Ireland are not criminals," Teggart said.

The judges "now have the power to not only give this woman her life back, but to give hope to all women and girls living in Northern Ireland."

Speaking Thursday, Teggart also welcomed an announcement that the Women and Equalities Committee at Westminster has launched an inquiry looking into abortion law in Northern Ireland, describing it as "a welcome opportunity for change" and a chance to shine a spotlight on "the UK government's obligations to women in Northern Ireland."

Bernadette Smyth, director of Precious Life, an anti-abortion campaign group based in Northern Ireland, defended the current laws in a statement released ahead of the hearing.

"We will be outside the High Court to highlight the importance of our pro-life laws that protect both the mother and her unborn child," she said.

Abortion pills approved by WHO

The abortion pills used to terminate the girl's pregnancy -- mifepristone and misoprostol -- are approved by the World Health Organization, which includes them on its list of essential medicines, noting that they can be used "where permitted under national law and where culturally acceptable" and that their use requires medical supervision.

The pills are an approved method of terminating a pregnancy under the UK's National Health Service. Thousands of women from Ireland travel to the UK each year to seek legal abortions.

A study carried out by the University of Texas and published in the British Medical Journal last year found that mifepristone and misoprostol were both effective and safe in the vast majority of cases.

Of 1,000 women in Ireland who had used the drugs to end a pregnancy, only 50 reported any medical complications.

Abortion-rights campaigners have long called for the purchase and use of the pills to be legalized. In May, just days after Ireland voted to repeal the abortion ban, activists gathered outside the court in Belfast and took what they said were abortion pills in protest at Northern Ireland's strict laws.

Counter-protesters from Precious Life were also present outside the court in May to defend the current legislation.

West Lafayette
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 64°
Kokomo
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 59°
Rensselaer
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 57°
Fowler
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 57°
Williamsport
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 61°
Crawfordsville
Clear
58° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 58°
Frankfort
Overcast
60° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 60°
Delphi
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 63°
Monticello
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 63°
Logansport
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 61°
Continued Comfortable Temperatures
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 69255

Reported Deaths: 2996
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion15029724
Lake7139273
Elkhart463077
Allen3662158
St. Joseph320379
Hamilton2543104
Hendricks1774105
Vanderburgh176312
Cass17549
Johnson1667118
Porter120939
Tippecanoe111811
Clark110945
Madison86265
LaPorte84329
Howard82465
Kosciusko82213
Bartholomew74847
Marshall74422
Floyd71845
Monroe69530
Delaware65452
Boone64446
Dubois64312
Noble63729
Hancock62838
Jackson5544
LaGrange54610
Warrick52830
Shelby52226
Vigo50910
Grant50729
Dearborn47328
Morgan43732
Henry36418
Clinton3603
White34710
Montgomery34221
Wayne33410
Lawrence33127
Decatur31832
Harrison30022
Miami2592
Scott25210
Daviess24919
Greene24034
Putnam2338
Franklin22911
DeKalb2214
Jennings21312
Jasper2102
Gibson2024
Steuben2013
Ripley1907
Perry17212
Orange16424
Starke1647
Fayette1627
Wabash1613
Posey1600
Jefferson1522
Carroll1482
Whitley1486
Fulton1472
Knox1340
Wells1342
Huntington1193
Tipton1176
Washington1171
Spencer1123
Newton11110
Randolph1074
Clay1015
Adams822
Owen821
Jay810
Rush804
Sullivan781
Pulaski711
Brown701
Fountain642
Benton600
Blackford552
Ohio514
Parke481
Pike470
Crawford440
Switzerland430
Martin420
Vermillion420
Union330
Warren191
Unassigned0202

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events