At the end of May, abortion activist group Women on Waves flew abortion pills across the German border into Poland to protest proposed changes to Poland’s already-strict abortion laws. Now on Tuesday, they will conduct their next flight, this time into Northern Ireland.
Like Poland, both Ireland and Northern Ireland are strongly Catholic, and therefore share the same belief that the state has the right to decide what’s best for women’s bodies. The drone flight will carry pills across the border and is planned to bring attention to the differences in rights between women in Ireland and the rest of Europe.
“The action is an act of solidarity from women in the south, where abortion is criminalized,” Rita Harrold from Irish abortion activist group ROSA told the Guardian, “with women in the North, where abortion is also criminalized and unfortunately there have recently been a number of prosecutions.”
The pill-carrying drone will take off from Omeath in County Louth and fly to County Down. When it lands, several women will take the mifepristone and misoprostol pills it has on board.
“Obviously there have been prosecutions and the threat looms large,” Harrold told the Guardian, “but the women who will be taking the pills won’t be pregnant at the time. This is an act of protest against the eighth amendment in the south and the lack of abortion rights in the North.”
It might seem like a cop-out not to have actual pregnant women taking the drugs, but the penalties involved are stiff–the maximum penalty is life imprisonment in Northern Ireland and a potential 14-year jail term in the Irish Republic.
Legally, the drone flight itself should be fine. “As the abortion drone is not used for any commercial purposes, will stay within the sight of the person flying it, and does not fly in controlled airspace, no authorization is required under UK or Irish law,” writes Women on Waves, the group behind the Polish drone flight.
After using the flight to draw publicity, the group will protest at Belfast’s Court of Appeal. Last year, Northern Ireland’s High Court ruled that the country’s abortion laws breach the European Convention on Human Rights. The appeal will be heard on June 21, the same day as the flight.
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