We’ve broken the law - prosecute us, over 200 abortion activists challenge police

Laganside Courts at Chichester Street, Belfast

Laganside Courts at Chichester Street, Belfast

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More than 200 abortion activists have issued an extraordinary challenge to the justice system by declaring that they have broken the criminal law on assisting an abortion in Northern Ireland.

The 215 named individuals, the overwhelming number of whom are women, said they were “inviting prosecution” about would begin to hand themselves in at police stations in response to an exceptionally rare court case which began last week in Belfast.

On Friday, a woman in her 30s went on trial at Belfast’s Magistrates’ Court on two charges of unlawfully procuring drugs used to end a pregnancy.

She cannot be named for legal reasons, in order to protect her daughter’s identity.

The court was told that the alleged offences of procuring a poison or other noxious substance knowing that ti was to be used with the intention of securing a miscarriage occurred in 2013.

The court was told by a prosecution lawyer said the case involved the alleged injured party’s mother. The judge confirmed that the defendant was being returned for trial at Belfast Crown Court.

Now a group of activists have used the case to issue a challenge which has the potential to decide whether widespread access to abortion is, at least in a de facto sense, legal in Northern Ireland.

Each of the individuals who have signed the open letter released to the media have admitted a criminal offence which in Northern Ireland carries a sentence of up to five years.

However, despite the case now before the courts, it appears that the authorities are loathe to take abortion activists to court for voluntarily admitting that they have broken the law.

In 2013, a similar letter with more than 100 signatories was made public.

Those behind that initiative said that they had not even been spoken to by the police, let alone faced prosecution.

When contacted yesterday, the Public Prosecution Service referred the News Letter to the PSNI.

In a statement, PSNI Detective Superintendent Andrea McMullan said: “Police are aware of the letter and are assessing its contents.

“Abortion is a very emotive issue and as police our role is to uphold the law. It would depend on the specific circumstances of an incident as to whether or not an offence has been committed and each case would be investigated on its own merit.

“Police would remind the public not to take prescription drugs that have not been prescribed to them. The taking of any prescription drug is potentially harmful if used without appropriate medical supervision.”

The open letter was organised by Alliance for Choice, a group which has been campaigning for Great Britain’s 1967 Abortion Act to be extended to Northern Ireland.

In a statement, accompanying the open letter, the activist group said that the signatories were “inviting prosecution for procuring abortion medication over the internet”.

The signatories allege that they have procured abortion pills over the internet – either for themselves or for another person.

‘Police never even spoke to us’

One of the signatories to the open letter, Emma Campbell, said: “It is wrong to charge someone for doing something, which the authorities have turned a blind eye to for years now.

“In 2013, over 100 of us published an open letter admitting to procuring and using abortion pills.

“Not one of us was visited by the police or any other authority – even those who spoke openly to the media about it.”

Alliance for Choice said that they all should be prosecuted alongside the woman currently before the courts, or else the case should be dropped. The group said that they would start to “hand themselves in” at police stations over the coming weeks and “confess” to committing the same offence with which the woman has been charged.

The full list of signatories is:

Emma Campbell

Kellie O’Dowd

Goretti Horgan

Naomi Connor

Carol Smyth

Sara Morrison

Clare Bailey

Aisling Gallagher

David Stewart Campbell

Lucy O’Hagan

Catherine Rossborough

Orlaith Hendron

Eoin Adams

Roisin Ni Sheac

Sarah Wright

Fionnghuala Nic Roibeard

Kim Pewtner

Courtney Louise Taylor Robinson

Victoria McCallum

Donnamarie Higgins

Fiona Nic Fhearghais

Siun Carden

Jane Robb

Aoife Dowds-Gibson

Lois Hamilton

Claire McCann

Ewan Copeland

Suzanne Lee

Niki Fisher

Emma Wallace

Christopher Baille

Joanne Donnelly

Chiara Cariddi

Joshua Colquhoun

Keith Connolly

Mel Corry

Regan Smyth

Claire Molloy

Elaine Coyles

Rhianna Marie Dorrian

Amos Greig

Sarah Laverty

Dervla O’Neill

Romie Kay

Mark Benson

Jennifer Trouton

Mary Culbertson

Anna Morvern

Padraig Mackel

Debbie Hyden

Sara Greavu

Dawn T Regan

Rachel Bunting

Darlene Corry

Hilary McCollum

Elli Kontorravdis

Eve Earley

Kate Guelke

Deaglan O Mochain

Lara Sunday

Rita Wild

Marion Kerr

Amber Woods

Anne Campbell

Rosa Thompson

Moya Henry

Michelle Coia

Ciara Devlin

Brendan O’Reilly

Rebekah McKinney-Perry

Orla Wallace

Cassandra Fox

Roisin Davies

Fionnuala Murray

Aine Jackman

Ceardha Morgan

Judit Maria Szekeres

Emily Donegan

Peter Dempsey

Laura Kerr

Fionnuala Dempsey

Kathryn Johnston

Maria Cadell

Etain O’Kane

Linda McMullan

Eve Jeffrey

Ruth McCarthy

Marie Quiery

Miriam Turley

Andrea Gonzalez

Claire Golemboski-Byrne

Catherine Couvert

Sandra Leo

Dorothy Mottram

Emilie Weiderud

Brenda Callaghan

Joe Law

Christiane McGuffin

Felice Kiel

Elena Piou

Hilary Campbell Martin

Margaret Ward

Paddy Hillyard

Sha Gillespie

Aislinn Kelly

Grainne Boyle

Bronagh Boyle

Julie Bradley

Helen Crickard

Lisa McGinley

Laura Canning

Jawine Westland

Nicolas Deschatrettes

Dierdre McGing

Michelle Rouse

Allan Acason

Julia Tor Rojo

John Black

MaryKay Mullan

Cara Parke

Laura McCauley

Anthony O’Neill

MaryKay Mullan

Mel Bradley

Mary Baird

Diana King

Anita Villa

Deborah McGinn

Ingrid Holme

Yvonne Morgan

Rosaire McLaughlin

Amylee McCauley

Jordan Cargill

Maev McDaid

Eva O’Connor

Hildy Ryan

Davy McAuley

Aisling Monds

Denise Meenan

Lynda Walker

Ernest Walker

Ross Anderson Doherty

Caroline McGuinness

Amanda Healy

Donna McFeely

Laura McFeely

Eoin Kane

Suzanne McGilloway

Caroline Bradley

Helen Cargill

Patricia Byrne

Caoimhe Barrett

Jennifer Aicken

Joanna Legg

Katherine Rowlandson

Lea Aylett

Rebecca Legg

Darragh Doherty

Sorcha Ní Cheallaigh

Christine Meenan

Todd Gfeller

Sally Murphy

Louise Conaghan

Amanda Trotter

Antoinette Hilton

Laura Curran

Caitriona Cunningham

Meabh O’Neill

Sheelagh Bradley

Helen Hancock

Taryn Gleeson

Jacquie Ward

Cassandra Harrold

Cliona Nic Éadbhaird

Shannen Jennifer Hetherington

Bridgeen Semple

Megy Annalise

Andrew Galvin.

Jacqueline Gallagher

Mari Crossan

Asya Zuyeva

Moira Ni Ghallachoir

Stephen Sperou

Cara Molloy

Megan Kane

Gervaise McCool

Maisie Cooper

Eimear Willis

Cathie Doherty

Stephen Bloomer

Eibhlin Fegan

Brigid Loughran

Amanda Verlaque

Dorothy Hunter

Kerry Guinan

Rosi Leonard

Jamie Hyland

Aoife Hammond

Sinead Redmond

Rebecca McCloskey,

Helen Sharkey

Rachel Melaugh

Fionnuala Bradley

Colleen O’Neill

Carmel Gates

Rihanna McPartland

Naomi English

Helen Farley

Jenny McEneaney

Seanín Ní Connalláin

Gemma Carson

Jason Brannigan

Maria Deiana

Claire Pierson

* An earlier version of this article include Siobhan Fenton as a signatory, as per the open letter issued by Alliance for Choice. The News Letter has since been informed that this is incorrect and updated the article accordingly.