Northern Ireland

Woman who used abortion pills has 'nothing to be ashamed of'

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Media captionSpeaking to the BBC, the woman said she is "not a criminal"

A woman from Northern Ireland who has taken abortion pills bought online has said she has done nothing to be ashamed of.

On Monday, another woman, a 21-year-old, was given a three month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, after she bought drugs online to induce a miscarriage.

The second woman described the fallout from that court case as a witch hunt.

Speaking to the BBC, the woman insisted she is "not a criminal".

"I have no regrets I have done nothing wrong," she said.

"I am not afraid for me. I am afraid for this young mother who's been taken through the courts - that's criminal. This is something like what was going on in the 1880s, like in the dark ages."

The woman said she decided to speak out after hearing some of the criticism of the 21-year-old who was sentenced.

Witch hunt

"How that mother has been treated - it's just been a witch hunt," she said.

The 1967 Abortion Act does not apply to Northern Ireland.

Abortion is only permitted in Northern Ireland if a woman's life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health.

Image caption On Monday, a woman was given a three-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, at Belfast Crown Court

The woman booked into a hotel to have her miscarriage.

"My home circumstances didn't allow me to be at home," she said.

"I didn't want to be a burden. I initially felt relief that I had taken the tablets.

"But I am dyslexic and I didn't read the instructions properly.

Pain

"I felt incredible pain. I was passing huge clots of blood. I was haemorrhaging all day - I felt so sick.

"I didn't arrange any kind of pain relief for myself. All I had was paracetamol. I was nearly ready to call an ambulance a few times, but because of the fear about was going to happen to me - you think they are going to come for me.

"The witch hunt, you know."

She said she feels women in Northern Ireland are "at the mercy of the law".

"This is illegal, but I just can't see how people can see this as being criminal.

"I ended up booking into the hotel for another day because I was so sick."

The woman was eventually admitted to hospital bleeding heavily.

"I had to go to the hospital because I was still passing blood.

"I just told them I had a miscarriage, because there is no way they can tell if you have taken abortion pills.

"They scanned me and I still had the foetal sac inside me. They give me more pills - the same as what I had taken and they sent me away so they could work.

"I still didn't pass it. I had to go back to the hospital and, anyway, it was removed. They placed it in a hazard bin.

"I had no counselling. Instead, I got a bit of a lecture from a male gynaecologist about contraception. No counselling."

The woman at the centre of the original case has said, through her solicitor, that she does not want to speak publicly.


Abortion law in Northern Ireland

• The laws covering abortion in Northern Ireland are the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, and the Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 1945. In the vast majority of circumstances, is a criminal offence in Northern Ireland to have or perform an abortion.

• The only exceptions are to save a woman's life, or if there is a risk of permanent and serious damage to her mental or physical health.

• Many women who do not fit in these categories travel from Northern Ireland each year to have an abortion in other parts of the UK.

• In England, Wales and Scotland access to abortion is covered by the 1967 Abortion Act. That permits terminations up to 24 weeks of pregnancy in certain circumstances.

• It is also allowed over 24 weeks if there is a grave risk to the life of the woman, evidence of severe foetal abnormality; or risk of grave physical and mental injury to the woman.


On Tuesday, an abortion group called for this week's case to be brought to the court of appeal.

Bernadette Smyth from Precious Life said she was "very concerned about the judgement" and was "very hopeful that this case will be reviewed".

However, a human rights organisation said it was appalled by the woman's conviction.

Amnesty International's Northern Ireland director, Patrick Corrigan, said: "A woman who needs an abortion is not a criminal - the law should not treat her as such." ,

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