A NUMBER OF protest marches are planned by pro-choice activists this evening and over the weekend in Ireland, Northern Ireland and London.
A protest march is due to be held in Belfast this evening in the fallout from a 21-year-old Co Down woman being charged this week for taking abortion pills to induce a termination.
The woman was charged with the offence, which took place between June and July 2014, in Belfast Magistrates’ Court on Monday.
The prosecution is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland in 40 years.
The UK Abortion Act of 1967 does not hold jurisdiction in Northern Ireland. As such the woman has been charged with unlawfully administering poisonous substances to herself, and with knowing that in procuring the pills they were to be used with the intent of inducing a miscarriage.
Both charges are offences under the 1861 Offences Against The Person Act.
If convicted the woman could face a life sentence. By contrast, the maximum sentence the woman could receive if charged in the Republic of Ireland is 14 years under the 2013 Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act.
The protest marches planned will predominantly take place this evening, with an additional demonstration planned for Cork city on Monday at 5.30pm.
A protest will take place in Belfast this evening at City Hall from 5.30pm, organised by the Alliance for Choice.
At the same time similar marches are planned for Dublin (6pm outside the GPO), Galway (6pm outside Galway Court House), and London (6pm outside the Northern Ireland Office).
“Making abortion illegal does not stop women in Northern Ireland needing or seeking terminations,” said Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland programme director Patrick Corrigan.
Vice chairperson of Alliance for Choice Emma Campbell, the organising group behind this evening’s Belfast protest, meanwhile said: “In 2016 it is shameful that the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act still makes criminals out of women accessing abortion in Northern Ireland.”