No police action over abortion law challenge

The protest at Musgrave PSNI station last week
The protest at Musgrave PSNI station last week
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The PSNI has declined to take any action over a group of protestors who claimed to have broken the Province’s abortion laws, a week after they staged a public demonstration outside a police station.

The protestors said they had either procured or taken drugs designed to induce an abortion, in contravention of Northern Ireland’s tight rules around terminations.

TUV leader and barrister Jim Allister said that the protestors’ tactics showed “bravado”, and that the police appeared to be turning a “blind eye”.

One of the leaders of the campaign said the demonstrators are to meet to decide their next steps, which is likely to include handing themselves in at police stations.

They had gathered at Musgrave PSNI Station in central Belfast on Wednesday, July 22, during which the names of more than 200 individuals who admitted getting or taking the drugs were read aloud.

Many of those on the list were present at the demonstration, which lasted for roughly an hour and was organised by a group called Alliance For Choice.

Police looked on, but did not intervene.

It came after a similar protest was staged at Strand Road PSNI station in Londonderry a week earlier.

Protestors have been angered by the decision to prosecute a woman for allegedly obtaining abortion drugs (which are illegal without a prescription) for her daughter, and argue that since they say they have breached the same law, the police should conduct mass arrests upon them too.

On Thursday, the PSNI said: “No arrests have been made in connection with a peaceful protest held in the Strand Road area of Derry on Wednesday July 15 or a peaceful protest held in the Victoria Street area of Belfast on Wednesday July 22.”

Emma Campbell, a 36-year-old east Belfast PhD student (studying photography and feminist activism), was among the people whose names were on the list.

She said that a meeting is set to happen next week to decide the campaign’s next steps, and asked if it is now more likely that they will start voluntarily presenting themselves in police stations, she said: “That was planned next course of action, so I imagine so.”

Asked if she was prepared to go to jail herself, she said: “I think people are. We’ve already highlighted that most women in Northern Ireland today have to break the law in order to get access to basic reproductive healthcare.”

She added: “We’re kind of banking on the fact it would be a global embarrassment [if they prosecute us].”

Mr Allister, MLA for North Antrim, said: “The law is still the law, and it’s the duty of the law enforcement authorities to do exactly that – enforce the law.

“You can’t allow the law to be brought into disrepute by people bragging that they have breached it, without taking some sort of action to test that matter.

“The prosecuting authorities have obligations to set out whether or not the law has been breached as claimed.”

He added that “the bravado of these individuals should be tested” by them going into police stations to make confessions.