Northern Ireland mum challenges abortion pills prosecution

Pills

A Northern Ireland woman accused of buying abortion pills online will challenge the decision to prosecute her in court later on Thursday.

The woman allegedly bought the pills for her 15-year-old daughter.

She is accused of procuring and supplying poison with the intent to cause a miscarriage in July 2013.

In April 2016, a 21-year-old woman received a suspended jail sentence after admitting self-terminating a pregnancy with drugs purchased online.

The mother faces two charges of unlawfully procuring and supplying the abortion drugs mifepristone and misoprostol with intent to procure a miscarriage, contrary to the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act.

‘Inhuman treatment’

She is challenging a decision by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) to take a case against her.

If the prosecution goes ahead, the woman faces a criminal trial with the possibility of up to 10 years in prison.

Reporting restrictions mean the mother and daughter cannot be identified.

Her lawyers have argued that conception followed underage sex and that compelling the girl to continue with her pregnancy would have been inhuman treatment under European law.

The woman is being supported by the civil rights group Amnesty.

Lawyers for the PPS have argued there was “no prospect of establishing inhuman treatment” in the case.

How does law in NI differ from rest of UK?

Taking drugs to bring on a miscarriage without doctors’ consent is an offence anywhere in the UK under the 1861 act.

But in England, Scotland and Wales an abortion can be legally carried out up to the 24-week limit and can be legal beyond that limit in cases where the mother’s health is threatened or if there is a substantial risk the baby will have serious disabilities.

Women in Northern Ireland only have access to abortions when a woman’s life is at risk, or there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health.

Women in England will be allowed to take an early abortion pill at home, under a government plan due to take effect by the end of the year, bringing the law into law with Scotland and Wales.

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