A mother in Northern Ireland, who obtained abortion pills for her pregnant underage daughter, is challenging the decision to prosecute her.
The mother is accused of allegedly procuring abortion pills via the Internet and giving them to her 15 year old daughter who terminated her pregnancy in 2013.
She is facing two charges of unlawfully procuring and supplying the abortion drugs with intent to induce a miscarriage, contrary to the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act.
If found guilty she could face up to ten years in prison.
The case is the first time that public prosecutors in Northern Ireland have been directly challenged on a decision relating to abortion.
The case begins at the High Court in Belfast today and the outcome could have major consequences for abortion rights in Northern Ireland.
The Only Place in the UK Where Abortion Pills are Still Illegal
Image via Flickr
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where abortion is still illegal. This is because Northern Ireland is not party to the 1967 Abortion Act, which legalised abortion in the rest of the UK
In 2015, the High Court in Belfast ruled that the abortion laws violated Article 8 of the Human Rights Convention, which protects the right to family and private life. However, the case was overturned in 2017 by the Court of Appeal.
Reproductive rights and the right to have an abortion are not explicitly defined in the Human Rights Convention. However, case law relating to abortion usually falls under Article 8 – in particular, respect for an individual’s private life.
Article 3 of the Human Rights Convention, which prohibits inhuman and degrading treatment, is also considered in relation to reproductive and abortion rights.
The mother and daughter’s lawyers are seeking a judicial review on the grounds that forcing the young woman to continue with the pregnancy would have amounted to ‘inhuman treatment’.
‘Treated Like a Common Criminal for Helping her Daughter’
Image via Ardfern, Wikimedia Commons
Following the Republic of Ireland’s historic vote in May of this year to legalise abortion, reproductive rights campaigners are hoping to challenge the law in Northern Ireland.
Amnesty International is supporting the mother and her legal team, arguing that the prosecution breaches the rights of both the mother and daughter.
Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Campaign Manager, said: “This ground-breaking case is a direct challenge to the criminalisation of women and abortion in Northern Ireland.
“This is a mother who has been treated like a common criminal for helping her daughter source medication that is prescribed free on the NHS in every other part of the UK.
“Women in Northern Ireland are being hauled through the courts for trying to access abortion pills, whilst this often-vital service is rightly becoming more accessible for women in England. This is such obvious and cruel injustice.
“We urge the judges to consider this case and its implications carefully, and listen to all of those who are calling for an end to this demeaning, harmful and unjust law.
“This mother is not a criminal. Her daughter is not a criminal. Women who want to access abortions in Northern Ireland are not criminals – the law should not treat them as such.”
The mother and daughter’s anonymity is protected in this case.