A number of police raids have occurred in search for abortion pills in the north this past week. According to the London Times "At least a dozen other people connected with the pills have been contacted by the PSNI and invited for interview." This will impact people in the south as many pills provided to people south of the border generally come through the north.
While abortion remains illegal and the trip to England expensive, the very safe abortion pills, mifepristone and misoprostol, are a rescue from a nightmare for many people who find themselves in a crisis pregnancy. The use of these pills is a well-known practice with a few mainstream media outlets covering the story not to mention the open letter that was released in June 2015 by 200 activists admitting to breaking the law by providing or procuring an abortion through the use of pills. It had appeared that while the authorities were aware of this practice that they were indeed turning a blind eye to it with a few exceptions, namely the scapegoating of a 19-year-old student and a mother who procured pills for her teenage daughter.
They are aware of the strength of our movement which is why arrests happen on such a small scale. Instead of implementing the law in all cases they reserve it for opportunities to make examples of people.
This latest development marks a sinister turn and it should serve as a rallying call to us all. While they’re outwardly making examples of vulnerable women they’re trying to shut down our operations in the background. The organisations that provide the pills, Women Help Women and Women on Web, as well as the activists who oversee things on our end are providing care to pregnant people that the state refuses to do.
The pills provide an aspect of safety to illegal abortions. As it stands, 67,000 women a year die from unsafe abortions throughout the world. If we lose the choice, albeit the illegal choice, of the pills here we could see women returning to unsafe methods. The state is creating fertile land for pregnancy related deaths.
This leaves us with no choice but to step up our game. This is a matter of life and death. Any campaign that emerges as a result of this must be an island-wide one. While an imaginary border means we have different mechanisms for the state to implement oppression there is nothing imaginary about the consequences of their laws. These raids are also a warning to anyone in the south complacent that the state would never dare to try and act on the 14 year jail sentence there.
Be under no illusion, the state hates us. They have the power to intercept parcels, they have done this, and they will continue to do this. This is not a case of just bad politicians; it’s a bad system, and we will never have real choice or reproductive freedom under it, but while we’re fighting for it they’re going to throw everything they have got at us.