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Image / Editorial

Mother in Northern Ireland prosecuted for buying abortion pills for daughter

by Edaein OConnell
06th Nov 2018

A mother in Northern Ireland is being prosecuted for illegally buying abortion pills for her teenage daughter.

The woman is now taking a judicial review in the Belfast High Court for the offence, for which her barrister described her as being “unlawfully prosecuted”. The barrister urged the judge in the case to rule that the prosecution is in contravention of human rights laws.

If convicted, the woman may face up to five years in prison for acquiring abortion pills online for her pregnant 15-year-old daughter.

The 1967 Abortion Act in the UK does not extend the legality of abortion to Northern Ireland. Abortion is illegal in the state and is only permitted when the woman’s life is at risk or there is a significant danger to her mental or physical health.

The Barrister representing the girl’s mother, Karen Quinlivan QC, said that “The prosecution will have a chilling effect on access to health care in these circumstances.”

The court heard from the defence that the girl had been in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship when she fell pregnant and was “extremely vulnerable” at the time and that the mother had acted in her daughter’s “best interests”.

The mother’s solicitor issued a statement outside the court on her behalf, explaining that both mother and daughter have had to relive the traumatic experience constantly while under prosecution and that “this has caused them immense distress and anguish which has been constant over the past five years.”

The mother is supported by both the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International, who are both acting as interveners in the case.

In the summer, an appeal taken by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commision against the current abortion laws failed. However, many judges involved in the case stated that the current laws in Northern Ireland were incompatible with human rights law in cases of incest, rape and fatal foetal abnormality.