LONDON Three women from Derry in Northern Ireland have publicly handed themselves in at a police station and requested they be prosecuted for buying illegal abortion pills.
The women Diana King, 71, Colette Devlin, 68 and Kitty O’Kane, 69 presented themselves at Strand Road police station in Derry on Monday evening to protest Northern Ireland’s abortion ban.
In England, Scotland and Wales, women have access to legal abortions. But, in Northern Ireland part of the United Kingdom abortion is illegal, and women face a life prison sentenceif they buy the medication used elsewhere in legal abortions.
The protest comes after a 21-year-old woman in Northern Ireland was handed a suspended sentence after taking abortion pills because she couldn’t afford to travel to England for an abortion when she was 19 years old. A second woman in Northern Ireland faces a possible jail sentenceafter buying abortion pills for her teenage daughter.
“We do now have one law for the rich and one for the poor,” saidKing, addressing a crowd of supporters before handing herself into police.
“If you can raise the 1,000 ($1,460)to 2,000 ($2,920) to travel to GB [Great Britain] for a legal abortion, no one will bother you.
“But, if you access abortion pills online for 60 ($88) there’s a climate of fear resulting from Stormont and the DPP [Director of Public Prosecutions]hounding women who are already at their most vulnerable,” she continued.
Abortion rights campaigners have criticised Northern Ireland’s harsh sentencing of women who procure and take online abortion pills, which they feel penalises low-income women who cannot afford to travel to England for a legal abortion.
The three women were accompanied to the police station by their solicitor, and each carried a written statement explaining the reasons why they purchased the pills.
The women were later questioned by police and released pending a report to the director of public prosecutions for Northern Ireland. A decision over whether to prosecute is expected to be made at a later stage.
In a Facebook post, Northern Ireland-based abortion rights group Alliance for Choice pledged support to the women.
“Solidarity with the three women in Derry today who presented at Strand Road Police Station for the “crime” of helping women access basic healthcare services,” read the post.
“These women have helped countless people exercise their right to choose their own future, a right which is not currently protected by the state. We respect and applaud these women for challenging the draconian laws which exist in Northern Ireland they say no choice, we say pro-choice!” the post continued.
Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.