We have heard that you are facing an almost complete push back on abortion rights from legislators, so we are writing from Northern Ireland to offer you some advice on what to expect. We have a law from 1861 that not only criminalises doctors but also women and pregnant people with up to “penal servitude for life”. We have no exceptions for rape or foetal anomaly and few of us have qualified under the strict risk to long term health or life conditions to access abortion in our home country.
Firstly you might need to bolster the Yellowhammer Abortion fund to include all the extra travel and accommodation that out-of-state access will require, this also includes covering childcare costs, as more than half of us accessing abortions have children already, Abortion Support Network have essentially been the funder and travel agency for abortion in Northern Ireland until the booking system was put in place..
Secondly you might need to forge strong relationships with online abortion pill providers, who are the only safe way to provide for women who fall through the cracks and cannot travel; those in coercive control relationships, with disabilities, with precarious jobs that don’t approve sudden days off, unsure immigration status and lack of access to finance, the list goes on.
Thirdly you will need to fight even harder to dismantle the more harmful stigma that accompanies such extreme restrictions to autonomy, a place that bans abortion is not a mentally healthy place to be when you’ve had one yourself.
Fourthly you will have to become the people – instead of clinicians, that offer advice and help to women and pregnant people who need abortions, you will have to find ways of sharing the information that helps the most people without getting yourselves into trouble.
Finally, you and the people you help might actually get arrested, you might have your homes searched and your workplaces raided. Maybe a GP will inform the police of your illegal behaviour, or a flatmate… either way you really have to know who you can trust with the information about your medical procedure, if you access pills at home because you cannot travel.
We have begged and pleaded with the UK government to hurry up and address these human rights abuses in Northern Ireland for decades. We are still being ignored, so we really hope, like us, you get to the ear of some great politicians and great people on your side as we know how relentless and tiring the whole thing is. Don’t give up hope.
Alliance for Choice