Linda Kavanagh, from the Abortion Rights Campaign, said the prosecution of the woman in Belfast highlights the issues with Ireland’s current legislation.
“Criminalisation is often talked about but the defence given by the Government is no one here has ever been prosecuted for having an abortion. This woman is only up the road from us. It shows it could happen to any woman at any time and throws a spotlight on the Government for their refusal to address the issue,” she said.
One protester, Martha Cochran, from Ranelagh, said women are ordering abortion pills daily from websites and aborting in their own homes.
“I have several friends who have bought abortion pills online and had abortions here in Ireland. The Government has no idea how many people every year are accessing these medications with no support. I’m a student; I don’t have the money to go to England — most people my age don’t. We need these medicines. I’m here to show women we shouldn’t be ashamed. The Government should be protecting us, not criminalising us and throwing us into prison,” she said.
The protest was organised by the Workers Solidarity Movement.
Tiernan Murray, a member of Doctors for Choice, said a countless number of women are having abortions alone, with no medical support.
“Most women who have a surgical abortion have no trouble. But one problem is infection. In England women are told to watch out for signs of infection and if you see these signs go to your GP. Women in Ireland are locked out of this aftercare,” he said
According to the Irish Family Planning Association, between January 1980 and December 2014, at least 161,987 women and girls travelled from Ireland to access safe abortion services in other countries.
That figure doesn’t include the number of women who have taken abortion pills ordered online.
Women on Web founder Rebecca Gomperts said Irish customs officials seized 1,017 abortion pills in 2014, an increase of over 50% from 2013.
“The problem with Ireland is customs stop the packages so they don’t get into Ireland. Women have to go to Northern Ireland to get them. They are trying to keep it out. It’s terrifying to think that the Government is making a big effort to stop women accessing this medicine when they clearly have no other option. I don’t know how they’re doing it,” she said.
Three pro-choice activists were arrested by gardaí for attempting to hang a banner from the GPO. The arrests were described as “draconian” and unjustifiable” by the Workers Solidarity Movement.