NI: Woman given suspended jail sentence for inducing miscarriage
A 21-year-old woman who was reported to police after illegally inducing her miscarriage has been given a three-month prison sentence suspended for two years.
The woman, who cannot be named due to a court order, was convicted in Belfast Crown Court of offences under section 58 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.
The court heard that she wanted to travel to England to safely and legally terminate her pregnancy, but was not able to raise the funds.
She subsequently bought two types of drugs online, which she used to induce her miscarriage in July 2014 while 10-12 weeks pregnant.
The foetus was later discovered by her housemates and she was reported to police.
Mr Justice David McFarland told the court there was little precedent and few guidelines to consult and said he was not aware of any other prosecutions under section 28 of the Act.
The sentence has been criticised by human rights groups.
Patrick Corrigan, director of Amnesty International Northern Ireland, said: “We’re utterly appalled by the court’s decision to impose a suspended prison sentence on this woman. A woman who needs an abortion is not a criminal. The law should not treat her as such.
“This tragic case reveals, yet again, that making abortion illegal does not stop women in Northern Ireland needing or seeking terminations.”
He added: “Instead of sanctioning women and girls for seeking the healthcare they need, the Northern Ireland Executive should lead the way in reforming abortion laws to bring them into line with international standards.”