Thursday 22 August 2019

Pro-choice activists travel on 'abortion pill train' to Belfast

Ruth Coppinger TD among women who took pills

Sarah Stack

Defiant pro-choice activists re-created the landmark contraceptive train of the 1970s earlier today by travelling to Belfast to bring back illegal abortion pills.

Up to 30 women and pro-choice TDs travelled the ‘abortion pill train’ and took the tablets to a rally in Dublin on their return.

Pro Choice activist Aoibheann McShane from Ashtown taking an abortion pill bought from Belfast after bringing back abortion pills denied to women in the Republic of Ireland at Connolly Station, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Pro Choice activist Aoibheann McShane from Ashtown taking an abortion pill bought from Belfast after bringing back abortion pills denied to women in the Republic of Ireland at Connolly Station, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Ruth Coppinger TD was among one of the women who took one of the pills, maintaining that they are safer than driving or taking Viagra.

"I'm not dead yet," she quipped.

Organisers said the trip, held to mark the second anniversary of the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar, was held to show there is ‘a safe, non-surgical abortion pill’ available and defy Ireland's medieval abortion laws which criminalise women.

A candle light vigil and silence will later be held in memory of the Indian dentist Savita, who died from septicaemia after she was refused a termination as she miscarried,

Rita Harrold of ROSA (Reproductive rights, against Oppression, Sexism & Austerity) said thousands of women in Ireland are forced to make a difficult and expensive journey to abortion clinics in England.

“Yet, a safe, less costly option could be provided through medical abortion pills prescribed by our own GPs, as happens in many other countries,” she said.

“Women had to break the law in the 1970s in the fight for basic healthcare in the form of contraception. A lifetime has passed for some of us since the X-case, it’s two years on from Savita's tragic death and still someone as vulnerable as Miss Y,  who could have safely and simply had an early medical abortion, is brutalised by the 8th

The train journey occurred as it emerged abortion pills being bought online and on the black market are posing a serious health risk, particularly to teens and women who are hard hit financially who may be willing to risk their health without proper medical supervision.

Pro Choice activist Ruth Coppinger TD after arriving from Belfast after bringing back abortion pills denied to women in the Republic of Ireland at Connolly Station, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Pro Choice activist Ruth Coppinger TD after arriving from Belfast after bringing back abortion pills denied to women in the Republic of Ireland at Connolly Station, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

More than 1,000 of the tablets have been seized in Ireland this year, mostly as they arrived into the country via mail order.

Medics say Ireland’s our anti- abortion laws are forcing women to order high-risk pills on the internet in a bid to end unwanted pregnancies.

Members of several pro-choice groups including ROSA, Action for Choice and Real Productive Health were joined by TDs and councillors from People Before Profit, Socialist Party and Anti Austerity Alliance.

Ms Coppinger, of the Socialist Party, said the political establishment are way behind ordinary people when it comes to abortion.

Pro Choice supporters hold a protest on O'Connell Street calling on the Government to repeal the 8th amendment
Pro Choice supporters hold a protest on O'Connell Street calling on the Government to repeal the 8th amendment

“They continue to give Catholic beliefs centrality when a large majority now favour allowing abortion to protect women's health, both physical and mental,” she said.

“How can politicians justify maintaining a Constitutional Amendment now 31-years-old and on which no woman of child-bearing age had a say? This action must be the first of many more to force this government to hold a Referendum to scrap the dangerous 8th Amendment."

However pro-life groups criticised the train trip.

“This appears to be an initiative more concerned with garnering publicity for the pro-choice cause rather than a genuine regard for women's health and wellbeing,” Caroline Simons of the Pro Life Campaign.

“The groups involved have no regard for the humanity of the unborn child and no interest in drawing attention to the fact that abortion has significant negative mental health consequences for many women.

But Sinéad Kennedy, of Action for Choice, said the action is about highlighting how organisations can provide women living in Ireland with access to safe abortion.

“Control of one’s fertility, through access to safe abortion, is an integral part of a woman’s right to health and equality,” she added.

“Women living in Ireland must be entitled to make decisions about their own bodies and their own futures. Anything less than access to free, and safe abortion in Ireland is a violation of the fundamentals of what it is to be a human being.”

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