Technology has brought power back to the women of Northern Ireland.
The answer to the ongoing abortion ban in Northern Ireland has apparently been found, as ‘abortion robots’ are due to begin delivering abortion pills to women across the country today at 12pm.
As reported by Belfast Live, the initiative was organised by a collaboration of women’s rights’ groups – Women on Waves, Women on Web and ROSA Northern Ireland – after they found a legal loophole in the country’s laws, where terminations remain illegal.
The groups have released a joint statement, which points out that the droids will not be breaking Northern Irish law, as they will be operated by a doctor in the Netherlands (who will also be on hand to counsel women remotely via the robots).
“Northern Ireland cannot continue to violate women’s rights,” the statement reads.
“The abortion robot will mark the different legal reality for Northern Irish women, who still have to rely on to rely on new technology, like telemedicine, drones and robots that use international legal loopholes to protect their rights.”
It goes on to stress that, “although the women in Northern Ireland would break the law if they were pregnant while taking the abortion pills”, this is a matter of patient confidentiality and forcing women to undergo a pregnancy test would be a severe violation of their human rights.
And it notes that, as Belfast city council passed a motion in April against the prosecution of women using abortion pills, women will not face any legal ramifications for accepting a delivery from the robots.
The groups have also planned a bus tour which will stop in Lisburn, Cookstown and Derry after the ‘abortion robots’ have visited, in order to offer abortion counselling and ultrasounds.
“It’s become the major, most accessible way for women here to have abortions and it’s very widely done,” said ROSA’s Eleanor Crossey Malone.
“Having an abortion ban doesn’t stop abortions from taking place. It just stigmatises them and makes them more difficult.
“Politicians and police are aware that the pills are widely being used and we want to highlight the reality of the situation.”
The ‘abortion robots’ come less than a week after it was confirmed that Ireland had voted overwhelmingly in favour of repealing the eighth amendment, the legal provision that made abortion illegal in almost all circumstances.
However, the result of the Irish abortion referendum has no bearing on laws in Northern Ireland, which are far stricter than those in England, Scotland and Wales. As such, women can only access terminations if their life is at risk, or if doctors believe that continuing with the pregnancy would pose a serious or permanent threat to their mental or physical health.
Under Northern Irish law, fatal foetal abnormalities, rape and/or incest are not legitimate reasons for having an abortion.
In the wake of the landslide victory for the ‘Yes’ campaign, though, MPs from all UK parties have called on Prime Minister Theresa May to put pressure on Northern Ireland to reform its abortion laws. And activists, such as Malone, have said that they “won’t rest until we have abortion rights in Northern Ireland.”
“We will not accept being forced to travel or go around in the shadows about this anymore,” said Malone.
You can find out more about the situation in Northern Ireland – as well as the politicians fighting to see change – here.