Calls for reform of abortion laws following conviction of woman in Northern Ireland

The Abortion Rights Campaign says the woman "was convicted for being too poor to travel to England "

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General view of Belfast Crown Court. Image: Niall Carson / PA Wire/Press Association Images

The Abortion Rights Campaign want an immediate reform of abortion laws in Ireland and the North, after a young woman who bought drugs online to miscarry was given a suspended prison sentence.

The ARC say had the woman - who was 19 at the time of termination - lived in any other jurisdiction in the UK she would have been able to legally access abortion services on the NHS.

The woman had not been able to raise enough money to travel from Belfast to England for a termination.

Following advice from a clinic in England, she bought two types of drugs online, took them and then miscarried in July of 2014.

Judge David McFarland said the clinic's advice "without knowledge of her background and details was perhaps inappropriate", The Belfast Telegraph reports.

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, Henry McDonald from The Guardian says the defence argued that the woman at the center of this case felt extremely vulnerable.

"[They said] she couldn't afford to travel to England, and felt alone and isolated amid strangers in a house in Belfast," he explained.

ARC spokesperson Linda Kavanagh said the woman was convicted for being too poor to travel to England.

“This woman trusted the people she lived with enough to tell them about her situation, and they contacted the police. Is it any wonder that women are terrified of telling people about their abortion experiences?" Ms Kavanagh said.

"Prosecution such as this one will not result in fewer abortions, they will just increase the fear and stigma attached to what is a medical procedure, chosen by thousands of women on this island every year. Cases like this make it more likely for women to have their illegal abortions alone, and will mean they are less likely to get in touch with medical professionals on those rare occasions when things do go wrong for fear of prosecution," she added.

The ARC says it is taking part in the Amnesty International 'Not A Criminal' protests outside Leinster House this week, calling for the decriminalisation of abortion in Ireland and Northern Ireland.