Housemates of teenager who self-terminated pregnancy speak out after online backlash
'This isn't anything to do with the rights and wrongs of abortion... this is about her attitude. It was as if she was getting rid of a piece of clothing'
The housemates of a teenager who self-terminated her pregnancy with drugs bought online have spoken out about why they reported her to police.
In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, the two women revealed details about the tragic case that has reignited furious debate over Northern Ireland's abortion laws.
They said they have been vilified for contacting the PSNI about their former housemate, who this week received a suspended prison sentence after she pleaded guilty to procuring her own abortion by using a poison.
The 21-year-old, who was 19 at the time, had been sharing a house in south Belfast with the two women.
She told them she was pregnant and that she could not afford to travel to England for an abortion. Instead, the teen, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, purchased pills online and induced a miscarriage in July 2014.
The male foetus was left in a plastic bag in a household bin for eight days before police were contacted.
One of the housemates, who asked to remain anonymous after a backlash on social media over her decision to contact police, told the Belfast Telegraph she was so badly affected by the events that she had to receive counselling.
The 38-year-old claimed she offered to be legal guardian to the teenager's child if she still did not want the baby after giving birth.
"She called the baby 'the pest' and kept saying she just wanted rid of it. She said: 'I don't want this inside me.' I offered a number of times to become legal guardian to the child. I myself had just had a miscarriage.
"I really tried to help her. I talked through a number of options but she just didn't want to know," said the Belfast woman.
"She said she was going to order these pills online. I tried to talk her out of it. She didn't tell us they had arrived. The first I knew that she had taken them was on the Friday night when she said she was getting awful cramps."
She said she told the young woman not to cut the cord and advised her to get medical treatment, but she refused. "A couple of hours later she came down carrying a plastic bag. I couldn't bring myself to ask what she had done with the baby. After my own miscarriage my mind wasn't in a good place," said the woman.
She added: "A bit later I was going to put rubbish out in the bin and there was the bag. When my other housemate came home on the Sunday we went and looked in the bag in the bin. There was the baby on a towel.
"Even now I just have a picture in my mind of it.
"Even now I feel sick. It has done so much damage to me mentally.
"It is something I can't get out of my head. On bin collection day I couldn't bring myself to put the bin out for collection. I didn't want to throw a baby away. I didn't know what to do."
She said she was upset by the woman's attitude towards the termination. "This isn't anything to do with the rights and wrongs of abortion. I'm not anti-abortion. I believe there are circumstances, like rape, where it should be a woman's choice.
"This is about her attitude. It was as if she was getting rid of a piece of clothing," she stated.
"There was absolutely no remorse. Even the way she was up and away out and doing her own thing a day after the abortion, while me and our other house-mate just walked around in shock.
"She wasn't forced into anything.
"We tried to help her. She was given lots of different options. We even tried to talk to her family to get them to help her, but we didn't know them and she wouldn't give us their contact details. People are saying we contacted police out of malice. That's not true," she added.
The second housemate, who has also been targeted by online trolls, said the pair decided to contact police after confiding in a friend.
"We tried so hard to support her when she told us about the pregnancy but it made me so angry when she kept calling it 'the pest'. Then, after the abortion, she showed no remorse. It was so weird the way she reacted to what had happened," said the woman.
She added: "I tried to be nice to her. My mum took her own life when I was 17 and I knew how badly that affected me, so I thought that something that bad must have affected her. But really there was no sign of remorse at all, her attitude really got to me.
"I asked her why she wouldn't give the baby a proper burial and she said 'do you want me to put it in a bag and throw it up the street?' I was so angry at her attitude. I eventually cracked up and told a friend. I was a frantic mess. He was shocked and told me I had to contact the police."
The 22-year-old from the north coast said she has not been able to put the events behind her and has been hounded by internet trolls since Monday's court hearing.
"It is just insane the way we are being portrayed as being the bad ones in this. The abuse we are getting is just awful. People are accusing us of having no compassion for not getting her help. But she begged and pleaded with us not to tell anyone.
"This isn't a debate about the rights and wrongs of abortion. The way this was done was wrong. The baby had hands, feet, all its facial features, its little nose. I can't stop thinking that it might have been alive when it was born. It is awful," she said.
The criminalisation of the woman has been criticised by human rights organisation Amnesty International.
"A woman who needs an abortion is not a criminal - the law should not treat her as such," Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland director, said.