It then emerged that 15-20 women had been contacted by the police who had got their addresses from Customs because their pills had been seized.
At least one person had the police turn up at their workplace and it is likely that some were living with their parents. It is hard to imagine what it would be like to have your parents find out from a cop that you are pregnant and seeking an abortion.
Thanks to the sterling work of solicitors who know the pills are not necessarily illegal, the police seem to have quickly regretted their actions and received orders from “high up” to stop questioning those whose pills were seized and not to charge anyone.
Helen Crickard was told that she would not be charged. Further, police now seem to accept that there is no “offence of possession or attempted possession (of abortion medication) with the intent to procure an abortion”.
This is because the law against abortion, which goes back to 1861, before Trade Unions were legal or the light bulb was invented, forbids anyone to “unlawfully supply or procure any poison or other noxious thing” to procure a miscarriage. But the pills obtained from WomenHelp.org or Women on Web are not noxious or poisonous.
They are very safe, on the World Health Organisation’s list of essential medicines and have been shown to be five times safer to take than Viagra.
The effect of the pills is to cause an early miscarriage and the risks associated with them are the same as the risks of a spontaneous miscarriage – the main problem with illegality is if women are worried that they are bleeding too much.
Prosecutions mean that some are afraid to go to the hospital as they would with a spontaneous miscarriage.
There should be greater clarity soon about whether women in the North can legally get and/or take abortion pills. The mother who was charged with getting pills for her 15-year old daughter is asking for a judicial review of the decision to prosecute her – asking the Courts to rule on whether she should have been charged at all.
The only parties in the Assembly to support abortion rights are People Before Profit and the Greens.
The Assembly voted against allowing abortion even in the case of Fatal Foetal Abnormalities.
Yet there has not been the kind of of angry reaction on the streets here as we see in the South when women’s rights are messed with.
Hopefully, that will change over the coming months as activists see the way people power has transformed the situation there.