#SluggerSoapbox: “the ban on abortion does not stop abortions from happening…”

Fionnghuala Nic Roibeaird is a local activist on the issue of reproductive rights

The most famous act of solidarity is probably the proclamation of the famous words “I am Spartacus”, the scene in the eponymous movie in which the defeated slaves are asked to identify their leader, Spartacus, as a reward for doing so their lives will be spared.

They respond by claiming that they are all Spartacus.

In this case many of us are all the Belfast woman who has been charged for supplying her daughter with the Early Medical Abortion pill.

Despite wishful thinking from some in Stormont the ban on abortion does not stop abortions from happening; in fact they occur here quite regularly.

When a law denies a person’s rights the reaction should not be one of apathy but one of brazen defiance and resistance channeled into direct action.

In countries where abortion is illegal, upon pregnancy a person’s bodily autonomy is reduced greatly and the bodily autonomy that they lose goes straight into the hands of the anti-woman politicians who have sentenced them to motherhood – voluntary or not.

In the very specific case of abortion direct action means helping people have an abortion if they want one. Alliance for Choice and other Pro-Choice activists engage in this type of direct action all of the time so why is one woman being used as a scapegoat for this?

Over 200 people signed an open letter admitting to breaking the same law and we are yet to be contacted by the PSNI for further investigation.

We are yet to be contacted, possibly because politicians (both sides of the border) do not want to come face to face with this topic.

We believe we should push this archaic anti-choice law to the limit, publicly and at all times; open defiance and mockery of this law is what will capture people’s attention and bring women’s rights back on the agenda.

If you prosecute one of us, prosecute us all; we are not going anywhere, we will continue to defy anything that limits our freedom.


  • Newman

    This attitude is symptomatic of the modern disease..excessive personal autonomy as the supreme virtue even if the common good is undermined. It also appears to advocate no restrictions on abortion, as if the rights of the unborn child must be ruled out of the equation. Are there any limits on your freedom?

  • eireanne

    let’s cut to the chase – sort the issue out for once and for all – provide adequate legislation like all other eu countries and the USA https://eurofree3.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/abortion-on-demand-now/

  • Jane2

    Check out the UK law. There is no reason it cannot be the same in NI.

  • Barry Gilheany

    Denying abortion rights to NI women is comparable to the persistence of the Jim Crow system in the Southern States of the US in the pre Civil Rights era. The “unborn child” can never a rights bearer because it is part of a woman’s body.

  • Newman

    The 1967 Act permits abortion right up to term for ‘disability’ , which is, as we know from cases involving club foot and hair lip, poorly. defined. It takes a particularly warped logic to deny any protection to the disabled in such circumstances. One of the few methods utilised is to adopt the stances that an unborn child has no more rights than a discarded tooth or damaged kidney…pretty chilling when analysed. The comparison with Jim Crow laws is inane. Opposition to slavery melted in the decades to follow like snow off a ditch because reason demanded that it did. Ironic that more people are opposed to abortion in the US today than at the time of Rose v Wade in 1973. This is an issue which can never go away unless we abandon reason for the immutable preeminence of so called personal autonomy and choice.

  • Newman

    apologies opposition should of course refer to support for slavery.

  • chrisjones2

    Yes the woman’s right to choose and her right to be free of having others force her to carry a child she cannot or does not want to have

  • chrisjones2

    Abortions will happen. Women will go to England or abroad. Some will be done in the backstreets and women will die or be seriously injured. Some women may kill themselves as an alternative

    And all for a few votes for the DUP

  • Zig70

    Is the democratic will of the people of NI not a good enough reason?

  • Newman

    Just close your eyes and repeat the mantra and all of the ethical problems will disappear.

  • Zig70

    Actually, I’m not your Spartacus. I have some moral difficulties with ending a human life. I’m not completely anti-abortion. If a woman feels strongly enough that she wants to end the life inside her then maybe the consequences for that child would be worse, who am I to know. However it is an act of killing to me past a certain point in pregnancy. How pro-abortion supporters can just white wash this point of view seems odd.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    “Over 200 people signed an open letter admitting to breaking the same law and we are yet to be contacted by the PSNI for further investigation” Can’t see the PSNI coming to charge you all for your admissions of breaking the law, but it would be interesting to see what would happen if you all presented yourselves at the Courts for a trial ?

  • chrisjones2

    If the democratic will of the people on a majority basis prevailed would we have this form of Government?

  • Granni Trixie

    With Abortion it’s Almost impossible to find a middle ground or indeed for many, a compromise added to which there is a tendency for MLAs to politicise the arguments in self interest.

    As I personally believe abortion is ‘wrong’, even though a feminist, I would never be convinced on the woman’s right to chose argument. I also subscribe to the slippery slope argument so fear that value for human life is lessened or that assumptions are made as to the quality of life of an unborn child identified as disabled.

    All that said, I am also concerned that so many women from NI go to England for abortions. I can only imagine this adds tremendously to their anguish. This ‘solution’ is also immoral.
    And I am angry that largely males governing ni ignore this problem.

    So, what I could live with and what perhaps many could live with is if the law in NI were changed to allow abortion in well defined,limited circumstances – and that it is easier to get such abortions as early on in the pregnancy as possible.

  • Chingford Man

    “When a law denies a person’s rights the reaction should not be one of apathy but one of brazen defiance and resistance channeled into direct action.”

    Does the baby who is to die have any rights?

  • johngf

    There’s something about not being able to incriminate yourself, but I’m no legal scholar.

  • murdockp

    I watched a few thousand loyalists and republicans break many criminal and civil laws in recent weeks and nothing happened.

    our police force doesn’t do organised groups, that fall into the two difficult box.

    Another doughnut Mervyn, don’t mind if I do Paddy your turn to get them, I will wait in the car……

  • murdockp

    the petrol bomb….weapon of the dole class.

    the open letter, the weapon of the marks and Spencer class……

    in Northern Ireland we all know the one that is most effective. Our politicians can barely read…

  • murdockp

    it is ironic that our political leaders do so much to defend the rights of the unborn but historically were happy to support the maiming and termination the lives of adults all in the name of a political cause.

  • murdockp

    in order to have government on has to govern. a plastic bag tax, an oversized gaelic football stadium and banning prostitution a government does not make.

    so many issues….so little competence……

  • Catcher in the Rye

    According to the following article based on abortion statistics here, 99.84% of abortions are conducted on the grounds of a risk to the mother’s mental health.

    The 1967 Act’s provisions as to disability (which require a “serious risk”) are apparently seldom if ever invoked.

    Ironic that more people are opposed to abortion in the US today than at the time of Rose v Wade in 1973.

    Issues of rights should not be subject to popular opinion.

    Prior to liberalisation of abortion laws, abortion still took place outside of a safe medical setting. Botched abortions were a significantly greater medical issue then than they are now, due to the legislation.

    Furthermore, according to this NHS link the 90% of abortions are conducted before 13 weeks (ie in week 12 or earlier). According to this article only 10% of club foot cases can be detected by this point.

    So it seems clear that the vast majority of abortions are occurring to stop an unwanted pregnancy, ie as a form of contraception. I don’t seek to dismiss the concerns about people using it to prevent a baby with a disability being born but it looks like this is an issue in only a tiny number of cases.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    As a person who supports liberalisation I believe it should be straightforward to allow abortion up to 12 weeks (which is a slight extension on the already legal practice of 8 weeks at Marie Stopes), and fatal fetal abnormality abortions possibly later based on the consensus of a panel of doctors.

    I don’t think there’s any need for the full 67 Act provision of 24 weeks.

  • Artemis13

    Abortions are not available at MSI Belfast up to 8 weeks on demand – only if the very limited circumstances are met that there is a threat to the woman’s life. You may have got the impression that MSI offer abortion up to 8 weeks across the board as they only provide the abortion pill (where the limited circumstances are met) which can be used up to 8 weeks. Abortion is not available at any time in NI unless there is a threat to the woman’s life.
    A twelve week limit is no good. Leaves people very limited time between finding out that they are pregnant and organising treatment.
    My own position is as early as possible, as late as necessary.

  • Artemis13

    Well done Alliance for Choice activists! This action highlights how the police and politicians are turning a blind eye to the reality in NI. Lots of women are taking and supplying these pills, but only one is being prosecuted for supplying it. At least 20 women a week are leaving NI for abortions in GB. Countless others are ordering the pills online and taking them at home. The pills are safe if obtained from womenonweb.org or womenhelp.org but they are illegal. There are others doing dangerous and desperate things besides. Abortions will happen, our law is only stopping safe and legal abortions from happening in NI. The current position is breaching our human rights – the UN has said so as recently as this week. Until we get reform you can help women who need to travel by donating to https://www.abortionsupport.org.uk

  • Artemis13

    Human rights have never been extended pre-natally.

  • npbinni

    It’s interesting to watch Slugger bloggers assiduously avoiding any mention of the horrendous, mercenary activities of Planned Parenthood in America. Cecil is more important, obviously.