Northern Ireland: Woman Given Suspended Sentence for Illegally Buying Dangerous Abortion Pill

International   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Apr 5, 2016   |   12:38PM   |   Belfast, Northern Ireland

A tragic case of self-induced abortion in Ireland is gaining publicity at a time when the issue of whether women should be punished for illegal abortions is at the height of controversy in America.

The Guardian reports a Northern Irish woman is facing jail time after she killed her unborn son in an illegal, self-induced medical abortion. Though abortion is widely legal during the first trimester in Europe, Northern Ireland, Malta, Ireland and Poland still protect unborn babies from abortion in most cases. Northern Irish law dictates that anyone carrying out an abortion can be punished, but charges against the woman are extremely unusual. Even when abortion was illegal in the United States before Roe v. Wade, abortionists typically were the ones who faced prosecution.

The Telegraph reports that the 21-year-old woman’s sentence of three months suspended for two years is believed to be the first of its kind.

The Guardian reports more about the case:

Crown prosecutor Kate McKay said that on 20 July 2014 the Police Service of Northern Ireland were contacted by the woman’s housemates. The police were told that she had bought drugs online that had induced a miscarriage eight days earlier.

PSNI officers sent to the rented accommodation in south Belfast found a male foetus inside a black bag in a household bin, the court was told.

The court heard that the woman had told her housemates that she tried to travel to England for a termination but could not cover her costs. She had then been told by a clinic about mifepristone and misoprostol, two drugs available on the internet that would induce a miscarriage. The housemates were “taken back by the seemingly blase attitude” adopted by the woman, a crown lawyer told the court.

The defence barrister said that at the time the woman was 19 and living with people she barely knew. His client felt “isolated and trapped … with no one to turn to” and resorted to “desperate measures”.

She was between 10 and 12 weeks pregnant with her unborn son, according to the reports.

The abortion drugs that she took, often referred to as RU-486 or mifepristone, are commonly used in America. The drug regimen can be dangerous to the woman as well as her unborn child. In America, the FDA reported in 2011 that at least 14 women died after using the drug and thousands more have experienced complications.

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Reports say the young woman ordered the abortion drugs online, possibly from the Women on Web, a radical pro-abortion group. The group openly works against countries with pro-life laws by selling dangerous mail-order abortions to desperate women without medical supervision.

According to the Guardian, authorities said the young woman was given little advice about the abortion drugs “without knowledge of her background, and details were perhaps inappropriate.”

Pro-abortion groups have been speaking out against the young woman’s prosecution and calling for abortion to be legalized in Northern Ireland. Amnesty International said it was “appalled” by the sentence, and the pro-abortion British Pregnancy Advisory Service said the young woman was a “victim” of “draconian abortion laws.”

In American politics, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump recently stirred a nationwide controversy by saying women who have potentially illegal abortions should be “punished,” and then subsequently backtracking just hours later to say that abortion bans should target abortion practitioners instead.

Abortion activists like Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Planned Parenthood have already seized on the comments to bash pro-life people, and many pro-life advocates have said Trump hurt the pro-life cause with his comment and subsequent reversal.

While pro-life advocates yearn for the day when unborn children are protected under law and abortions are banned, the pro-life movement has historically opposed punishing women who have abortions — instead focusing on holding abortion practitioners criminally accountable for the unborn children they kill in abortions.

That pro-woman mentality is partly due to the understanding that the abortion industry preys on women — selling them abortions by lying to them about the humanity of their unborn children and the destructive effects abortion will have. The pro-woman, pro-life attitude is also partly due to the fact that the pro-life movement is led by millions of women who had abortions and now deeply regret their decisions, thanks to a change of heart on abortion, or a religious conversion or a simply understanding that they took the life of their own child.

When abortions were illegal pre-Roe, women were not prosecuted and current abortion bans in the U.S., such as the ban on partial-birth abortions, do not punish women who have abortions.