By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D. NRL Director of Education & Research
Apparently nothing bothers Rebecca Gomperts more than a country that legally protects their unborn. Gomperts, the abortion activist from Women on Waves (WOW) who brought the world the “abortion ship,” the “I want an abortion website” where women can consult and order abortion pills, the “abortion hotline” where they learn how to find and use the pills, and in recent years, was involved in efforts such as the “abortion train,” the “abortion bus,” and the “abortion drone,” is at it again.
This time? Bringing the abortion drone to Ireland.
The latest stunt, we are told, will involve a drone fitted with packages of abortion pills (mifepristone and misoprostol) and flown from a location in Omeath, Ireland, to a spot across the river to somewhere near Narrow Water in Northern Ireland, where women will pick up and ingest the pills. This is scheduled to occur on Tuesday, June 21 at around 10 am local time.
The action “has been described as an act of solidarity between women on both sides of the Irish border to highlight the strict laws on terminations that exist in both countries,” according to The Guardian.
A reporter from the Irish Independent says, “It will not be revealed which women, if any, are pregnant when they take the World Health Organization approved abortion pills” (6/16/16). But, according to The Guardian, the women who will be ingesting the pills will not be pregnant, similar to what was the case with the women in last year’s media event with WOW’s abortion drone in Poland.
The target is understandable, from Gomperts’ viewpoint. In the western world, Ireland and Northern Ireland have long been holdouts in the trend towards broader abortion legalization. Though abortion was illegal for more than a century before, the passage of Ireland’s 8th Amendment in 1983 gave unborn children explicit constitutional protection which, though under assault, remains to this day. Northern Ireland, though part of the United Kingdom, did not legalize abortion when England, Wales, and Scotland did under the 1967 Abortion Act.
There are limited conditions under which abortion can be performed in both places, such as when believed necessary to preserve the life of the mother. Though there have been legislative debates and legal rulings over the breadth of these provisions in recent years, abortion remains illegal in the vast majority of cases. This has made both countries targets for national pro-abortion movements and international abortion activists like Gomperts, as NRL News Today has discussed in dozens of posts.
Gomperts first launched the “abortion ship” in 2001, anchoring the boat in international waters off the Irish coast, promising women they could come aboard to abort with pills. It is believed that no actual abortions were performed then or the next year, but Gomperts drew publicity for her cause, nonetheless, agitating for new laws.
Gomperts teamed with some local abortion activists in October of 2014 for an “abortion train” which took women from Dublin to Northern Ireland to pick up abortion pills which they publicly took when they returned. Some of the same groups were involved in the “abortion bus” which toured Ireland in October of 2015, inviting women on the bus to privately consult with a Women on Waves doctor about abortion pills. There was some ambiguity in the press coverage about whether or not there were actual abortifacients on the bus.
The latest “abortion drone” sounds very similar to an abortion drone stunt Women on Waves performed in June of last year, flying packets of pills across a river from Germany to Poland (see NRL News Today, 6/23/15 and 6/30/15). They claimed everything was legally vetted, but German police appeared to confiscate computer pads used by the drone pilots once the drones were away. And though it was not widely advertised, activists admitted to the press that the women taking the pills were not pregnant at the time.
The point was not to establish some standard drone shipping route, but simply to draw attention to Poland’s abortion and use that to exert pressure on politicians to change the laws.
The stunt here in Ireland appears to be following a very familiar script.
Women on Waves and the other groups claim that the law permits the drone to fly the pills from one country to the other, and says women are legally allowed to procure such pills, though the laws they cite are broader laws governing the United Kingdom and European Union rather than the more protective laws of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Bernadette Smyth of the Belast-based group Precious Life told the Northern Ireland News Letter that she was “currently seeking legal advice and may very well be in contact with the PSNI [the Police Service of Northern Ireland] to ensure that these pills will be confiscated” with the intent “to ensure that they are not used to destroy the lives of unborn children” (6/16/16).
She also told The Guardian that “These people are hell-bent on destroying lives, but we will be doing everything in our power, legally, to protect lives.”
Women on Waves notes that after the drone flight, plans are to protest at the Belfast Court of Appeals where the court is hearing an appeal of a decision by Northern Ireland’s High Court that the country’s abortion law violates the European Convention on Human Rights (Women on Waves, Release, accessed 6/16/16, found at womenonwaves.org)
A spokesperson for the Irish Pro Life Campaign, Sinead Slattery, said in a statement published on the Campaign’s website that
“This stunt, organised by Women on Waves and the ROSA group, does nothing to advance debate or help women dealing with unplanned pregnancies. Instead, it has one goal which is to attract as much media attention as possible for the campaign for wide-ranging abortion. The groups involved in this latest stunt have zero respect for the right to life of the unborn child and are in deep denial about the long lasting trauma and hurt that abortion causes many women. (PLC statement, 6/16/16)
Slattery continued: “While the motivation behind the drone stunt is to undermine Ireland’s legal protection for the unborn child, all it does is destroy the credibility of the organisers who are showing reckless disregard for the lives of women and their unborn babies.”
Something Women on Waves and its political allies regularly fail to mention is that a number of women have died after taking these supposedly “safe” abortion pills, and thousands more suffered serious complications. Efforts to promote these drugs, which harm women and kill babies, or to sell them online, like Women on Waves does, is irresponsible and dangerous.