In Northern Ireland, Having An Abortion Will Get You Jail Time

by Danniah Daher

A Northern Ireland woman has been given a three-month prison sentence for inducing an abortion. 

Had the woman lived anywhere else in the UK other than Northern Ireland, she would not have been prosecuted for inducing her own abortion. As a UK citizen, the woman could legally have travelled to England for a termination.

CNN reported that the young woman, whose name cannot be released for legal reasons, was 19 years old at the time of her pregnancy and lacked the money to travel to England in order to safely abort the pregnancy.

The woman apparently contacted an abortion clinic in England for advice, and was informed of two drugs she could purchase online that would induce miscarriage. She bought the drugs, and aborted the pregnancy. Her housemates discovered the fetus in the trash and contacted the police.

The woman pleaded guilty to two charges—inducing her own abortion by using a drug, and supplying a drug with intent to induce a miscarriage. She was given a three-month prison sentence, which was suspended for two years.

The judge, David McFarland, said he was unaware of anyone ever having been prosecuted under Northern Ireland’s 150-year-old abortion law. Such legislation has been “substantially amended” in the rest of the United Kingdom.

The anti-abortion group Precious Life has called for an appeal of the sentence, claiming the judge has ignored an 1861 law calling for a life sentence in such abortion cases. Because a cruel, outdated 1861 abortion law should obviously be relevant and administered in 2016…?

The law—the Offenses Against the Person Act—states that, “Every woman, being with child, who, with intent to procure her own miscarriage shall unlawfully administer to herself any poison or other noxious thing … shall be guilty of felony, and being convicted thereof shall be liable to be kept in penal servitude for life.”

The abortion laws in Northern Ireland clearly do not prevent women from having abortions. They simply prevent poor women from having safe and legal abortions.

Image via Flickr//Daniel Lobo 

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