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Thursday, 20 September 2018

Abortion pill accused in 'fear and pain' over pending NI prosecution

Written by Michael McHugh and Rebecca Black

A woman accused of obtaining abortion pills for her teenage daughter is in "fear and pain" over her pending prosecution.

On Thursday the High Court in Belfast is set to hear a legal challenge to the decision to take action against her.

Unlike other parts of the UK, the 1967 Abortion Act does not extend to Northern Ireland.

The procedure is illegal except where a woman's life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious danger to her mental or physical health.

The woman at the centre of the case cannot be named for legal reasons.

She said: "(The prosecution and looming judgment) is there at every important moment of my and my children's lives - just hanging over me.

"The fear and pain of it all. I feel like I am not allowed to move on."

In June, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission lost a Supreme Court appeal over the legality of Northern Ireland's restrictive law.

A majority of judges said it was incompatible with human rights law in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and sexual crime.

The mother is judicially reviewing in the civil courts the decision to prosecute her over allegations she obtained abortifacient medication for her 15-year-old daughter who was pregnant.

The case is known as JR76.

She said she has been put through "five years of agony" and explained how "painful" it has been to have the prosecution hanging over her head "every single day of my life... I try for the sake of my family to keep my head above water".

She has been "struggling with anxiety", has lost all trust in doctors and no longer uses their services.

She is supported by Amnesty International and the Human Rights Commission and the case will be heard over two days.

Grainne Teggart, a campaigner at Amnesty International, said the experience has been devastating for the woman and her family.

"If she was from any other part of the UK where safe and legal abortion pills are easily accessible, her family wouldn't be facing this traumatic ordeal," she said.

"The judges must see that this is such obvious unfair cruelty. They now have the power to not only give this woman her life back, but to give hope to all women and girls living in Northern Ireland."

Chief Commissioner Les Allamby said it was an "extremely important case".

He added: "The Commission is arguing that the court in Belfast should follow the judgment of the Supreme Court when coming to its decision in this case."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture | Pro-choice campaigners outside court (c) Brian Lawless / PA Wire.