A Drone Delivered Abortion Pills to Women in Northern Ireland
Borrowing a page from both the military and Amazon Prime, a group of pro-choice advocates used a drone earlier today to deliver a batch of abortion pills to Northern Ireland in protest of repressive abortion laws there and in the Republic of Ireland. The reproductive rights group Women on Waves partnered with several other pro-choice groups (namely, the Alliance for Choice, the Abortion Rights Campaign, Rosa, and the Labour Allegiance) for an "all-island act of solidarity" that they hoped would "highlight the violation of human rights caused by the existing laws that criminalize abortion in both the north and south of Ireland except in very limited circumstances."
The drone flight showcases just how difficult it is for women on both sides of the isle to access safe abortion services, particularly in comparison to women throughout the rest of Europe. As it stands currently, abortion laws in both the north and south of Ireland prevent a woman from obtaining an abortion unless their pregnancy poses a direct threat to the mother's life — there are no exceptions for rape, incest, or fetal abnormalities. This is a stark contrast to other European countries where women can easily obtain safe, legal abortions, and Irish women frequently need to travel abroad to have the procedure. Northern Ireland is the only country in the United Kingdom where abortion is criminalized, and women can face life in prison if they seek the procedure (as was the case for several Irish women who might be jailed for purchasing the abortion pill online because they could not afford to travel abroad). The punishments are a bit lighter in the Irish Republic, but an abortion can come with a potential 14-year sentence.
The timing of the drone launch was significant — it coincided with an appeal against a 2015 ruling that declared Northern Ireland's abortion laws violate human rights legislation. The historic ruling could lead to women in the country being allowed abortions in circumstances of rape, incest, and fetal abnormalities, but many pro-choice groups were angered by the decision. Awaiting the outcome of the appeals case, Women on Waves launched the drone, which delivered mifepristone and misoprostol pills — the drugs used for medical abortions — to Northern Ireland to demonstrate to women that they are both available and safe (a similar protest was launched last June from Germany to Poland). Once the drone dropped the medicine, a group of non-pregnant woman ingested the pills to prove just how safe they are, and others waited outside the Belfast court house ahead of the decision.
“We are here to say we are going to defy the law in helping women obtain these pills and we are going to work to make the law unworkable and stand in solidarity with all women who want to have an abortion and have the right to do so in Northern Ireland." Belfast resident Courtney Robinson told The Guardian. "As long as politicians in Stormont and [the Irish parliament] continue to ignore human rights we will continue our campaign."
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• At What Point in a Pregnancy Can You Not Get an Abortion Anymore?
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• 5 Mind-Blowing Stats About Abortion in America
• Terrifying (and True) Facts About Violence Against Abortion Providers
Photo Credit: Women On Waves/Glamour