PSNI carry out raids in Belfast linked to purchase of illegal abortion pills online

PSNI carry out raids in Belfast linked to purchase of illegal abortion pills online

POLICE in Northern Ireland have raided premises in Belfast in a bid to crackdown on illegal abortion pills bought online.

Last week two properties in South Belfast were raided on International Women's Day, March 8, with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) also obtaining a warrant to confiscate the phone and laptop of a person at one of the premises.

It is reported no pills were found during the raids.

Mifepristone and misoprostol pills, which can be bought online by women in the early stages of pregnancy for around £60, can bring about an abortion.

Claire Bailey, MLA for Belfast South and Deputy leader of the Northern Irish Green Party, said she was disturbed by the PSNI raids.

“Women who buy this medication are invariably in a very difficult situation. Indeed it’s often poorer women who turn to the internet because they cannot afford to travel outside of this jurisdiction to access reproductive healthcare," she told the Independent.

“The lack of reproductive rights here in Northern Ireland means that women are criminalised and vilified.”

The PSNI confirmed on Monday that the raids had taken place.

Det Supt Bobby Singleton stressed that abortion was a “sensitive issue that divides opinion within society”.

He added that where an offence has been committed, the PSNI had a duty to bring offenders to justice.

Abortion is unlawful in Northern Ireland except where the pregnancy poses a direct threat to the mother's life, or there is a serious risk to the mother's mental or physical health.

Anyone carrying out an unlawful abortion in Northern Ireland can be jailed for life, while in the Republic of Ireland, where it is also illegal, it carries a maximum 14-year jail sentence.

According to the Family Planning Association, over 1,000 women from Northern Ireland travel to England for an abortion every year, while the Irish Family Planning Association says that in 2015, 3,451 women having an abortion in England and Wales gave an address in the Republic of Ireland.

However with the procedure costing up to £2,000 to have done privately, some look online for cheaper alternatives.

The day the raids took place in South Belfast, March 8, was the day pro-choice campaigning group Strike 4 Repeal had called on women across Ireland not to go to work in protest at Ireland's abortion laws.

The group also staged a protest and march outside the Department of Health and Department of Justice in Dublin.