For the last several months, legislators in Northern Ireland have been engaged in a heated debate regarding one of the harshest anti-abortion laws in Europe. Under the current law, women in Northern Ireland can face up to 14 years in prison for receiving abortions. The law is so strict that the United Nations recently declared it a human rights violation.
Reproductive rights advocates in Northern Ireland and elsewhere in Europe feel that a repeal of the law is long overdue.
Now, in an effort to demonstrate just how difficult it is for women in Northern Ireland to access abortions, activists in the neighboring Republic of Ireland have begun flying abortion pills over the border with a drone. Activists in Germany undertook a similar protest last June in which they used a drone to fly abortion pills to Poland – a country with similarly draconian abortion laws.
Upon being delivered to Northern Ireland, other non-pregnant abortion rights activists are taking the initial doses of Mifeprex to demonstrate that abortion pills are safe for women. The activists who organized the demonstration are calling it “an all-island act of solidarity between women in the north and the south to highlight the violation of human rights caused by the existing laws that criminalize abortion in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland except in very limited circumstances.”
While abortions are criminalized in both countries, it is not technically illegal for the protestors to transport the abortion pills across the border via drone. Following the initial flight of the drone on June 21, the activists lead a protest in front of the Court of Appeals in the capital city of Belfast.
In spite of mounting pressure both at home and abroad, Ireland’s Health Minister has maintained that the country’s government will not conduct a referendum until a citizen’s assembly is established to further examine the issue.