Don’t Imprison Women for Having Abortions

Target: Mitchel McLaughlin, Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly

Goal: Expand access to safe, legal abortion in Northern Ireland.

A woman in Northern Ireland was recently sentenced to three months in prison for inducing a miscarriage, according to the Belfast Telegraph. The sentence is suspended, so she will not actually have to go to prison unless she breaks the law again, but the fact that a woman now has a criminal record for terminating a pregnancy is abhorrent.

Officials in the National Health Service in England estimate that about 2,000 women travel from Northern Ireland to England and Wales to get abortions every year. The woman who recently received a suspended prison sentence did not have the money to make that journey, so she instead ordered medication online, which she used to induce a miscarriage. If she’d had the money to travel to England for the abortion, she would not have been charged with a crime.

That women can access safe and legal abortion in England and Wales but not in Northern Ireland is confounding. Northern Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws only serve to punish women who experience unwanted pregnancies and do not have enough money to travel. If a woman cannot afford to travel from Northern Ireland to England, how can she conceivably afford to have a child?

Abortion is currently only legal in Northern Ireland if the pregnancy threatens the mother’s health. Northern Ireland must legalize abortion in all cases so that all women in the United Kingdom have equal access to the procedure, and no woman has criminal charges brought against her because she does not have the money to travel.

Sign the petition below to ensure that no more women in Northern Ireland are made into criminals because they have abortions.


Dear Speaker McLaughlin,

I am sure you are aware that a woman in Northern Ireland was recently sentenced to three months in prison for inducing a miscarriage. Although she was given a suspended sentence, the fact that she has been traumatized by a battle in the court system and now has a criminal record—all because she made a responsible decision to end a pregnancy—is abhorrent.

This woman could not afford to travel to England or Wales to have an abortion, as roughly 2,000 women from Northern Ireland do every year. I understand that abortion runs contrary to the religious beliefs of many people in Northern Ireland, but you must know that outlawing the procedure does not stop women from having it. Northern Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws only condemn economically disadvantaged women—those who cannot even afford a boat ticket—to motherhood.

I strongly urge you to introduce legislation in the Northern Ireland Assembly which would legalize abortion, not only in cases where the pregnancy threatens the mother’s health, but in all cases. Access to safe, legal abortion is necessary so that women do not resort to dangerous means of inducing miscarriages, and do not fall into extreme poverty because they cannot afford to have a child.

Please introduce legislation that will guarantee abortion rights for all women across the United Kingdom, and will ensure that no more women are made into criminals for exercising control over their bodies.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: William Murphy

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