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68 N. Ir. Legal Q. 1 (2017)
Abortion by Telemedicine in Northern Ireland: Patient and Professional Rights across Borders

handle is hein.journals/nilq68 and id is 5 raw text is: 



NILQ 68(1): 1-33


                   Abortion by telemedicine in

    Northern Ireland: patient and professional

                           rights across borders

                                     TAMARA HERVEY

                                  University of Sheffield

                                              and

                                      SALLY SHELDON

                                    University of Kent*


                                            Abstract
 The ulneasy legal and political settlement regarding abortion in Northern Ireland has long relied on the
 outsourcng of aspects of reproductive health care. While local health services offer only hihy restricted
 access to termination procedures, women travel to access abortion services elsewhere. However, technological
 changes, in particular the development of abortffaient medicines, are revolutionising this aspect of
 reproductive healthcare. Rather than women having to travel to a service, today that service can travel to
 women  throu1gh the postal suipply of  abortion pills, sourced via the internet. While online supply of
pharmaceulticals can pose potentialpublic health risks, at least two groups offer safe and effective telemedical
services to women in Northern Ireland. Women on Web  and Women   Help  Women  each supply abortion
pills, ulnderprescrption from a doctor based in another countr, to women who wish to end a pregnancy of
nine weeks or less. Here, we consider the extent to which the telemedical abortion services that they offer are
protected by transnational law, in particlar, EU provisions on cross-border services. This offers new and
hitherto unexplored lines of legal argument (including defences against criminal prosecution and challenges
to a state 1 attempts to restrict the flow of services). Through claiming the autonomy-based legal relationships
implicit in transnational law and the power that flows therefrom, we suggest, women may  challenge
regulatory arrangements which seek to limit their reproductive rights.

                                         Introduction


In   April  2016, the  first woman  in at least a decade  was  convicted  of  illegal abortion in
   Northern   Ireland.1 Finding  herself pregnant   at 19 years of  age and  unable  to raise the
money to travel   to  England  for a  legal termination, she  had taken  abortion  pills sourced


    We  are grateful to the SURE student intern scheme at the University of Sheffield; to Laura Robinson, our
    SURE  student, for her enthusiastic and persistent contributions; to the Arts and Humanities Research Council
    (AHRC)   for funding  Sheldon's research into the regulation of abortion pills (AH/LO06537/1;
    <www.kent.ac.uk/law/mabal/index.html>); and to the following for constructive and insightful feedback on
    earlier drafts of this paper or parts thereof: Professor Kenneth Armstrong; Professor Marie Fox; Dr Goretti
    Horgan; Dr Sorcha Macleod; Dr Brid Ni Ghriinne; Professor Steven Peers; Professor Sol Picciotto; Stefanie
    Pletz; Flora Renz; Dr Oisin Suttle; and an anonymous reviewer.
 1  Henry McDonald, 'Northern Irish Woman Given Suspended Sentence over Self induced Abortion' The Guardian
    (4 April 2016) <www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/apr/04/northern-irish-woman-suspended-sentence-self
    induced-abortion>. A freedom of information request submitted by Dr Goretti Horgan found that no woman
    had been convicted under s 58, Offences Against the Person Act 1861, between 1 April 2007 and 31 March 2015
    (on file with the authors).


NILQ  spring 2017

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