01/09/2016

Free Helpline Launches In NI To Assist Women Who Buy Abortion Pills Online

A free telephone aftercare helpline for women who have purchased abortion medication online has launched in Northern Ireland.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas) said the helpline will offer advice to women who have obtained pills from Women Help Women (WHW) and Women on Web (WOW) and who are concerned about any symptoms they may have.

The service has also been introduced in Ireland and the Isle of Man.

Abortions are only available in Northern Ireland if a woman's life is at risk or where there is a risk of a serious and adverse effect on her physical or mental health which is either long term or permanent. The punishment is life imprisonment for anyone who unlawfully performs a termination.

Ann Furedi, Chief Executive of the bpas, said: "What these women really need are accessible, high quality abortion services at home. They shouldn't have to make the choice between travelling to England and breaking the law by purchasing pills online. While we wait for politicians to do the right thing, bpas will provide telephone aftercare to women who have bought pills online from these two women's organisations and who want to speak to someone in confidence about what they are experiencing, or who simply need a reassuring voice at the end of the line. We will be here for these women 24 hours a day until they no longer need us."
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Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA welcomed the launch but said the helpline should be provided free by the health service in Northern Ireland.

She said: "If someone becomes unwell after taking illegal drugs, they can present at an emergency department, report to the nurse or doctor what they took and receive timely medical intervention. However, in the case of women taking an abortion pill, the medial professional is legally obliged to report this to the PSNI, therefore criminalising the woman.

"Women's health needs to be the priority in this matter, not criminalising those who desire an abortion. While abortion is a conscience issue for Alliance, there is no doubt the law around the matter needs to be clarified as soon as possible."

Green Party MLA Clare Bailey said the issue of abortion in Northern Ireland can no longer remain hidden.

She said: "Once again the inadequacies of Northern Ireland’s abortion laws have been brought into the spotlight.

"Women are buying abortion pills online and they need support which cannot currently be provided by local health professionals who face the threat of prosecution. This threat needs to be removed so that they can provide proper health care.

"It is a disgrace that women are being criminalised through our archaic laws for purchasing drugs such as mifepristone which are on the World Health Organisation Model List of Essential Medicines, the most important medications needed in a basic health system."

(CD)

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