‘Prosecute us too’- challenge to police

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Derry pro-choice campaigners are to take part in a Northern Ireland wide challenge to the arrest of a Belfast mother for procuring the abortion drug for her teenage daughter.

More than 200 people have supported an open letter which has challenged policy makers and police to prosecute each of them - admitting that they have either taken the abortion pill themselves, or procured it for the use of another person.

Abortion still remains illegal in Northern Ireland, and procuring abortion drugs by post is also illegal.

Among those signing the letter is Derry human rights campaigner Goretti Horgan, who described the arrest and planned prosecution of the Belfast mother as “totally outrageous”.

“The woman is being scape-goated by a system which has systematically turned a blind eye to this process for years.

“And all because she wanted to help her daughter and give her the best in life. She did what any mother would do and that is to take the necessary steps to help their child.”

Goretti said the focus of the case on a mother who purchased the drug online for her daughter was very telling.

“It is so much easier to use some ridiculous charge - that a mother bought poison for her daughter, as if that would happen - than to take on the many grown woman who have used, and continue to use these tablets.

“It is easier than trying to open a real debate about reproductive rights of women in Northern Ireland.”

She added that if her own daughter came to her asking for the same help she would have “no hesitation” in procuring the pill for her.

“Consistent denial of women’s access to safe, free and legal abortion does not stop women having abortions, it just drives them underground or to huge expense and travel - to later term abortions and more trauma.”

In the letter, which follows on from an open letter issued two years ago also by Alliance for Choice, the signees - both men and women - have challenged prosecutors to take them to task for their actions.

In a further move, from next week onwards, the signees have pledged to start handing themselves in, one by one, to the PSNI to confess.

“What we want to achieve is to make sure that this mother, who is being scapegoated, is not isolated by what is happening to her - and that she knows she is not alone.”

The open letter states:

In 2012, members of Alliance for Choice and their supporters co-signed a letter with over 100 signatures stating we had all either procured the EMA Pill or helped someone else to access it.

In light of a court case in Belfast starting 19th June 2015, where a woman is being accused of procuring a poison or other noxious substance, namely Mifepristone and Misoprostol, knowing that it was to be used with the intention of securing a miscarriage, Alliance for Choice are again naming ourselves as willing participants in procuring these medicines for women and girls who need them. We have all done what this mother is accused of and should be prosecuted alongside her if the case is to continue.

Alliance for Choice would also like to state that Early Medical Abortion with these medicines is very safe. The risks associated with miscarriage and with safe and legal abortion are substantially less than the risk of continuing the pregnancy according to the World Health Organisation. In Europe, more than 1.5 million women have terminated their pregnancies with mifepristone and misoprostol. This medicine is not poisonous but proven to be safe and effective, with few serious complications and success rates of 95–98%. Mifepristone and misoprostol have been on the list of essential medicines of the World Health Organization since 2005.

Both www.womenonweb.org and http://womenhelp.org/ are reliable and safe places to get these medicines with online consultations. Neither of these organisations would be needed clandestinely by women and girls in Northern Ireland if we had the UK’s 1967 Abortion Act extended here.

Consistent denial of women’s access to safe, free and legal abortion does not stop women having abortions, it just drives them underground or to huge expense and travel. We the undersigned stand in solidarity with the woman in court today and the 1,000’s of others who have had to do the same thing.