Abortion pills trio: law making women criminals ‘absolutely bad’

NI pro-choice campaigners volunteered to be arrested for importing drugs to help others

Pro-choice campaigners Colette Devlin, Diana King and Kitty O’Kane.  Photograph: Trevor McBride

Pro-choice campaigners Colette Devlin, Diana King and Kitty O’Kane. Photograph: Trevor McBride


Three Derry women who volunteered to be arrested for illegally importing abortion pills said they have procured them for women in this State as well as in Northern Ireland.

Colette Devlin (68), one of the three who spoke to The Irish Times by phone, said they had been importing the pills, which can induce an abortion up to nine weeks into pregnancy, for about five years.

“We’re involved in Alliance for Choice and had always raised money to help wee girls get to England for legal abortions,” Ms Devlin said. “The nine-week pill, as we call it , is cheaper and it’s a safe, efficient way of triggering a miscarriage.

“We give our addresses for the delivery of the pills, which can be got from two websites – womenhelp.org and womenonwaves.org.

Donegal girls

“It would be mostly for girls here in Northern Ireland, but being in Derry, near Donegal, aye we would help some girls from Donegal too.

“We would help any girl anywhere if they or their family or friends asked us.”

Though the Health Products Regulatory Authority and customs have seized packages of the tablets in this State, Ms Devlin said none of theirs had ever had been. “The Royal Mail has delivered them all, delivered by the Queen.”

Last month’s conviction and sentencing of a young woman at Belfast Crown Court for procuring her own abortion led to the women’s decision to turn themselves into the PSNI on Monday evening.

“We couldn’t believe that in the 21st century, 100 years after women got the vote, that a young girl could be treated like this. Give me a break,” said Ms Devlin.

The point the three were making was that the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act, which governs the abortion regime in Northern Ireland, “ targets the most vulnerable women and girls who can’t afford to travel for abortion”.

She said it further targeted them by prosecuting them, while activists such as members of Alliance for Choice, who were public about their activities, were not arrested by the authorities.

Law for the rich

Another of the three women, Kitty O’Kane (69), said the authorities’ approach made it clear there was “one law for the rich, another for the poor”.

The third woman, Diana King (71), said many poor women seeking abortions felt they could not choose to have a baby.

“Here in Northern Ireland, we don’t even have subsidised, no matter to say free, childcare,” she said. “ It seems everyone wants women to continue pregnancies, but then won’t do anything to help them bring up the children that result from those pregnancies.”

Asked what they would do if charged and convicted, Ms Devlin said: “We’re taking that chance, but we’re working on the basis that people have a social duty to uphold good law, but a moral responsibility to oppose bad law.

“And this law that criminalises vulnerable, poor women is absolutely bad law.”