Why women swallowed abortion pills in protest in Northern Ireland

Posted by
Susan Devaney
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The women of Northern Ireland found a clever loophole in the country’s strict abortion laws as they staged a powerful protest outside courts in Belfast. 

It’s been one week since Ireland took to the polls to repeal the eighth amendment on the country’s strict abortion laws and won.

Now, the incredible feat has sparked protests, campaigns and social media chatter as women in Northern Ireland call for the same change to be made north of the border.

In a powerful pro-choice protest (sure to be one of many in the coming months) women dressed in The Handmaid’s Tale-style outfits (conveying a message of oppression) as they gathered together outside courts in Belfast on Thursday 31 May.

After arranging robots to distribute abortion pills (they had found a legal loophole which allowed them to do so), the women apparently then swallowed them in protest in front of police officers.

The robots were seized by police

According to reports, police officers attempted to remove one woman but after a vocal stand-off they gave up.

One of the demonstrators, Eleanor Crossey Malone, said she took action “in defiance of the extremely outdated, medieval, anti-choice laws that exist in Northern Ireland”.

“We are not willing to accept it anymore,” Malone continued.

“Women every day in Northern Ireland are using these pills - as long as we don’t talk about it, as long as we act like it is a secret, politicians are not under pressure to legislate on this.”

The robots, which were operated by a doctor based in the Netherlands, were seized by PSNI after a Dutch doctor, who was protesting outside the courts, was forced to hand over the robots and the pills.

Women’s rights’ groups – Women on Waves, Women on Web and ROSA Northern Ireland – who, together, organised the ‘abortion robots’ also arranged a bus tour stopping in Lisburn, Cookstown and Derry to distribute the pills to any women who needed them.

In recent days, MPs from all UK parties have called on Prime Minister Theresa May to put pressure on Northern Ireland to reform its abortion laws, as Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where abortion is still legal (aside from exceptional cases).

Many people have taken to Twitter, calling for immediate action by using the hashtag #NowForNI

However, the Supreme Court is set to rule on a challenge over the legality of the country’s strict abortion laws. At the end of last year, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) told the court that the current laws subject “exceptionally vulnerable” women to “inhuman and degrading” treatment. The court will announce its decision on Thursday 7 June.

You can find out more about the situation in Northern Ireland – as well as the politicians fighting to see change here.

Images: Getty / Twitter