A 21-year-old woman in Northern Ireland has been given a suspended prison sentence for purchasing the abortion pill online and undergoing a self-induced abortion in 2014.
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where abortion is still illegal, though it also remains illegal in the Republic of Ireland.
The case was heard yesterday before Belfast’s Crown Court. According to her defense attorney, the woman, 19-years-old at the time, had told her housemates, whom she did not know well, that she had looked into traveling to England for an a abortion but could not afford to do so.
She had then spoken over the phone with a clinic about mifepristone and misoprostol, the pills that can be used to induce a miscarriage, and ordered the pills online.
The Guardian reports that prosecutor Kate McKay told the Belfast court that the woman’s housemates contacted the Police Service of Northern Ireland on July 20, 2014 and informed them that the woman had induced a miscarriage eight days earlier with pills purchased online.
The court also heard that when PSNI sent officers to investigate the rental house in South Belfast, they discovered the remains of a fetus in bag in a garbage bin inside the home.
The woman’s defense attorney argued that “his client felt ‘isolated and trapped … with no one to turn to’ and resorted to ‘desperate measures.’”
He said that the woman “was trying to put her life back together again” and has since had a baby with her partner.
He also noted that had the woman been in any other part of the UK except for Northern Ireland, she would “not have found herself before the courts.”
Per the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861 and the Abortion Act of 1967, anyone found guilty of carrying out an abortion in Northern Ireland is technically eligible for life in prison.
The woman pleaded guilty and received a suspended sentence of three months, placing her on a probationary period of two years.
The judge who heard the case, Justice McFarland, noted that the woman had received advice about the abortion pills “without knowledge of her background, and details were perhaps inappropriate.”
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service called the woman “a victim of Northern Ireland’s draconian abortion laws and the refusal of politicians to act to protect the health of their constituents.”
They also called upon “all politicians to repeal these antiquated, Victorian laws and create an abortion framework fit for women in 2016.”
In the US, Donald Trump recently faced a barrage of criticism when, in an interview with Chris Matthews of MSNBC, he suggested that women who seek abortions should be punished.