People Before Profit MLA Eamonn McCann has hailed a new telephone advice help line for women who have taken abortion pills in Derry in the face of criticism of the initiative from pro-life campaigners.
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas) launched the free telephone aftercare helpline for women in Northern Ireland, Ireland, and the Isle of Man who have bought abortion medication online.
Mr McCann said: “The fact that women here have to get the pills via the internet is a disgrace. Elsewhere in the UK, quite properly, the pills are prescribed free under the NHS.
“I am not the only MLA who has helped women here obtain the pills. The law which forbids us doing this is farcical.
“More than 200 people have confirmed to the PSNI that they have helped women here access the pills. Three of the signatories have made formal written “confessions” to the PSNI. Yet nobody has been charged.
“The Assembly doesn’t have the guts or the gumption to change the law. “Meanwhile, the police and the prosecution authorities don’t have the guts or the gumption to enforce the law.
“The issue isn’t going to go away. In the new Assembly session, People Before Profit will ensure that the questions arising from a woman’s right to choose are kept before the Assembly and, more importantly, before the wider public.”
Ann Furedi, Chief Executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said: “What these women really need are accessible, high quality abortion services at home.
“They shouldn’t have to make the choice between travelling to England and breaking the law by purchasing pills online.
“While we wait for politicians to do the right thing, bpas will provide telephone aftercare to women who have bought pills online from these two women’s organisations and who want to speak to someone in confidence about what they are experiencing, or who simply need a reassuring voice at the end of the line. We will be here for these women 24 hours a day until they no longer need us.”
Kinga Jelinska, Executive Director of Women Help Women, said: “Women Help Women welcomes the launch of the bpas abortion aftercare hotline.
“While abortion with pills is safe and effective, and most women are very satisfied with an online service, it will be very helpful to have direct support for women who may want clinical reassurance in the case of a possible complication.
“Until laws are changed that allow every woman to access abortion care in a clinic without traveling, we are so appreciative that bpas is creating this service for all women in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man.”