Pro-abortion campaigners have challenged police to arrest them in protest at what they see as Northern Ireland’s unjust laws on terminations.
A crowd of over 40 demonstrators gathered outside Musgrave police station in central Belfast where they displayed banners and placards, and chanted slogans including “not the church, not the state, women must decide their fate”.
Police looked on throughout the protest, which saw the names read out of more than 200 women who admitted to obtaining or taking abortion pills unlawfully.
A number of those demonstrating had put their own names on to the list.
The demonstrators have been angered by the recent prosecution of a woman for allegedly helping to obtain abortion pills, and argue that since they freely admit to doing exactly that, they too should be prosecuted en masse.
A similar protest had been staged outside Londonderry’s Strand Road police station last week.
The demonstrations were organised by the group Alliance for Choice.
The court case which sparked the protests has seen a woman (who has not been named) accused of procuring the drugs mifepristone and misoprostol in 2013.
She appeared in Belfast Magistrates’ Court on June 19. The case is believed to be ongoing.
Fionnghuala Nic Roibeaird, a 21-year-old sales worker from west Belfast, said that if the charges proceed against the woman, many of the group will start handing themselves in to police.
“If the charges aren’t dropped, we’re going to force their hand,” she said.
“They’ll have to prosecute all of us, or none of us.”
Suzanne Lee, a 25-year-old student from Newtownabbey, said: “I bought them [abortion pills] in 2012 when I was in my third year of university.
“I discovered I was pregnant. It just wasn’t the right time. I was living off my student loan, I had no income, and I decided that it wasn’t the right time to have a child.”
Her message to police was this: “Either you arrest us and uphold this law, or you do away with it.”
Peter Lynas, director of the Evangelical Alliance, wrote to the PSNI around the time of the Londonderry demonstration last week.
He has not yet had a reply, and last night said the whole issue was “deeply concerning”.
He added: “If the law is to be effective it ultimately needs to be enforced – otherwise there’s no point in having the law.”
The PSNI said in a statement: “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.”
They reminded the public not to take medication which has not been prescribed to them.
It is not the first time such protests have taken place.
In October last year, a collection of pro-abortion campaigners from the Republic openly travelled to Belfast to obtain abortion pills which had been bought off the internet, before staging a demonstration at Central Station.
A spokeswoman for the Royal College of Midwives said the tablets are illegal in the UK unless prescribed.
Last night one of the organisers of that trip, Rita Harrold, said the pills are totally outlawed in the Republic, but that – nine months later – nobody involved has been arrested on either side of the border.