Abortion pills: Housemate speaks of guilt over 'baby in bin'

image captionThe woman was given a three-month prison sentence, which was suspended for 12 months

A housemate of a woman given a suspended prison sentence after buying drugs to terminate her pregnancy said she contacted police over the guilt she felt seeing the foetus in a bin.

Her housemate told the BBC that she and another housemate rang the police for advice.

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.

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

In a statement, her lawyer, Mary Haughey said: "My client is relieved that the proceedings are now concluded and she wishes to put the matter behind her and move on with her life."

On Wednesday, the housemate told the BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show she had been visiting relatives when the woman at the centre of the court case, who was 19 at the time, took the tablets.

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.

She said she had been aware of the pregnancy. When she returned the following day she came across the foetus.

"I was putting rubbish out in the bin and realised that must be it," she said.

"We saw the wee baby and I was like 'oh my word'. You would never want to see it in your life. It was a full wee proper baby."

The housemate, who also spoke to the Belfast Telegraph, said the woman "begged and pleaded" for them not to tell anyone.


"It wasn't our decision to make. We just thought we can't do anything, it's not our place to say anything," she said.

"About a week went by, the guilt of a baby in the bin was eating us up.

"We actually rang the police for advice. Whenever the police came it turned into something massive. We didn't actually think it would have gone so far."

During the trial, the court heard the woman could not afford to travel to England for a termination.

She was was given a three-month jail sentence, suspended for 12 months, after admitting two offences - procuring her own abortion by using a poison, and of supplying a poison with intent to procure a miscarriage.

On Tuesday, an abortion group called for the case to be brought back to the appeals court.

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." ,

More on this story