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21 year old woman given suspended sentence for inducing abortion with pills

The defendant, who at the age of 19 procured an abortion by purchasing pills on the Internet was given a three months suspended sentence at Belfast Crown Court.  The defendant could not afford to travel to England to obtain a legal termination.  However, she sought advice from a clinic in England about what pills to buy and induced an abortion.

She pleaded guilty to two offences: procuring her own abortion by using a poison, and supplying a poison with intent to procure a miscarriage, contrary to the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

Judge McFarland spoke of the difference in legislation surrounding abortion in Northern Ireland, compared to other parts of the UK.  Under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, the maximum penalty is life imprisonment.  He referred also to the potential dangers of taking such drugs which should only be administered under medical supervision.

The conviction and sentence followed a week after the High Court of Northern Ireland declared that the country’s abortion law was incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.  Abortion is only permitted in Northern Ireland when a woman’s life is at risk or there is a permanent and serious risk to her mental or physical health.  New guidance on abortion has been published.

You can access Amnesty International Press release here and read BBC News article regarding the publication of new abortion guidelines for Northern Ireland here.

Criminal Law, Health, Local Developments, Medical Law