Woman avoids jail over abortion with online drug
Published 05/04/2016 | 02:30
A young woman who bought drugs on the internet to induce a miscarriage and then dumped the foetus in a bin has been handed a suspended sentence.
A barrister for the woman, who could not raise enough money to travel to England for a termination, told Belfast Crown Court that had his client lived in any other part of the UK, she would "not have found herself before the courts".
The 21-year old, who cannot be named because of a court order, bought two types of drugs online, took them and then miscarried in July 2014.
The male foetus, which was between 10 and 12 weeks, was later found in the bin of a house she shared with two people.
The woman appeared in court yesterday and pleaded guilty to procuring her own abortion by using a poison and to supplying a poison with intent to procure a miscarriage.
She was given a three-month sentence, suspended for two years. Prior to sentencing, Crown prosecutor Kate McKay said on July 20, 2014, police were contacted by the woman's housemates and made aware that she had bought drugs online which induced a miscarriage on July 12.
When officers arrived at the rented accommodation in south Belfast, they conducted a search and located various items - including a foetus in a black bag in the household bin.
A post-mortem confirmed that the male foetus was of 10-12 weeks gestation and was the woman's biological son.
Ms McKay said that when the woman moved into the house in May 2014, she told her two housemates that she was pregnant but was trying to raise the money to travel to England for a termination.
After she was unable to raise enough money, she contacted an English abortion clinic for advice. She claims that she was told by the clinic about two drugs available on the internet that would induce a miscarriage.
She miscarried on July 12. The following day, her housemates found bloodstained items and the foetus in the bin, with one describing it as a "wee baby" around four inches long.
Ms McKay said the housemates were "taken aback by the seemingly blasé attitude" adopted by the woman. A week later, they contacted the PSNI.
When arrested, the then 19-year-old made no comment.
Defence barrister Paul Bacon said his client's prosecution highlighted the difference in legislation between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
He told the court "had she lived in any other jurisdiction, she would not have found herself before the court", adding that she felt "victimised by the system".
Mr Bacon said the drugs she took were normally administered under medical supervision, meaning that she put her own health at risk. He branded her actions those of "a 19-year old who felt trapped" and turned to "desperate measures".
The woman is now 21, has a new baby with her partner and is "trying to put her life back together again".