Women could be criminalised for miscarrying
Despite Northern Ireland being part of the UK, women living there are not entitled to make the same decisions regarding their bodies and reproductive health.
The 1967 Abortion Act doesn’t apply, and women who chose to have an abortion in the region can be prosecuted under the 19th-centuary Offences Against the Person Act.
Now the largest trade union in Northern Ireland is putting even greater pressure on female residents, warning them that if they miscarry they may be questioned by the police under suspicion of taking abortion pills.
This could lead to women having to disclose details of their miscarriages to employers to prevent them being suspected of having an abortion and criminalised.
Unite, the committee who support a woman’s right to choose and those who are prosecuted for taking abortion pills, have challenged the entire trade union movement. Equality officer, Taryn Trainor’s main worry is how dangerously open to abuse reporting women is.
‘My concern is that, say somebody has a miscarriage, and somebody else had suspicions, they could potentially report that woman to the police,’ she tells Dazed.‘For example, if you had an abusive ex-partner that you wanted to leave, and you found yourself pregnant and miscarried – he could call the police and say you’d taken abortion pills. So we’re really concerned about where this prosecution from last week is going to lead. It’s such an outdated law, and it needs to be repealed.’
Last week a judge in Belfast imposed a three-month prison sentence (suspended for over a year) on a 21-year-old woman for taking abortion pills when she was 19, and she was prosecuted after her housemates reported her to the police.
A similar case has also come to light after another woman was reported to the police after she allegedly purchased abortion pills for her underage daughter.
The options for women seeking abortions in Northern Ireland and Ireland are extremely limited. While many travel to the mainland UK for treatment, for others this is just not financially viable. Instead their only option is to break the law, and put their health at risk by procuring abortion pills online.