Abortion advocates rallied together in Belfast, Northern Ireland Thursday to demand abortion access and hand out abortion pills to the public before police seized the illegal drugs and the robots that delivered them.
The rally followed an initiative launched by a cohort of women’s groups that joined together to send abortion pills to Northern Ireland. Women on Waves, Women on Web and ROSA Northern Ireland sent abortion-inducing drugs to the women in Northern Ireland, the first of which arrived Thursday. The first batch of pills were delivered by robots operated from the Netherlands, Gizmodo reported.
Women on Waves asserts its mission is to “prevent unwanted pregnancy,” while its sister organization “Women on Web” delivers abortion pills through the mail. ROSA Northern Ireland describes itself as a “Socialist Feminist Movement” that seeks to end reproductive oppression. The group considers its work vital to the well being of women in Northern Ireland, despite the fact that people who violate the law can face up to 14 years behind bars.
Despite Women on Waves’ and the rally-goers’ best efforts to breach the law however, police stepped in shortly after the rally began to seize the abortion pills that were being handed out. Authorities also took the robot dispensing the pills with them when they left the rally.
Three women reportedly took the abortion pills in front of the crowd before the police could intervene. No one attending the rally was arrested.
The rally echoes growing cries for Northern Ireland to legalize abortion after Ireland voted Saturday to legalize abortion by repealing the Eighth Amendment. Northern Ireland operates under a different governing body than Ireland, and following a power-sharing debacle that left the government without an executive in January 2017, British officials have assumed authority to make major decisions for the region while its governing body remains uncertain.
Northern Ireland’s elected assembly can choose to align with Britain’s abortion laws, which permit women to abort their unborn children until 24 weeks in pregnancy, but the assembly voted against doing so in February 2016. The assembly has not been able to vote again following the government’s collapse in 2017, Reuters reported.