Council calls for decriminalisation of women who abort using pills

DUP councillor Lee Reynolds
DUP councillor Lee Reynolds

A motion calling for the decriminalisation of women who use abortion pills has been passed by Belfast City Council.

The motion, tabled by Alliance councillor Kate Nicholl, comes ahead of a court case next month involving a mother who is being prosecuted for buying abortion pills for her teenage daughter.

“A woman who has an abortion is not a criminal, nor are healthcare professionals who care for them, and the law should not treat them as such,” the motion reads.

Prior to the debate on the motion, the council heard representations from Amnesty International, the Family Planning Association and Both Lives Matter.

Speaking in the chamber, Ms Nicholl said that Northern Ireland has the “harshest criminal penalty” for those who seek out an abortion of any region in the UK.

“Prohibiting abortion does not stop abortion, it stops safe abortion,” she added.

“No one should be forced to order pills online risking their health and a criminal record. Let’s tell women that we trust them.”

The motion was seconded by Sinn Fein councillor Mary Ellen Campbell, who said that the decision to have a termination is “not something any woman aspires to” and they should be “supported not ostracised”.

“It is wrong to criminalise women who choose to have an abortion and also those medical professionals that facilitate it,” she said.

“We are asking for the necessary healthcare that is already available in Europe, Britain and the US. These women are not statistics, they are our mothers, our sisters and daughters.

“This is about compassion and about trust. I trust women.”

SDLP councillor Tim Attwood said his party supports decriminalisation, whilst opposing the extension of the 1967 Abortion Act.

DUP councillor Lee Reynolds said the principle underlying the motion leads to the view abortion should be fully available for the full length of the pregnancy and his party could not support it.

“This motion basically and fundamentally mentions the mother, it mentions the health professionals, but it omits the third party: the child.

“We cannot support a motion that does not take into account the child. No human life should be seen as dispensable.”

The motion was carried with 34 voting in favour, 15 against and five abstentions.