On Tuesday morning a drone carrying the abortion medications mifepristone and misoprostol landed at the picturesque Narrow Waters Castle in Northern Ireland. There it was met by two women who, under the watchful eye of law enforcement, swallowed the pills in what one called "an act of defiance" against Northern Ireland's anti-abortion laws.
Northern Ireland has some of the harshest reproductive health laws in all of Europe. Women are allowed legal abortions only if they can prove their lives are in danger, or their mental health is at risk. It's a ban that's near-absolute, barring abortion in cases of rape, or incest, or in which an embryo is guaranteed to be stillborn.
Outside of these narrow parameters, women who have abortions in Northern Ireland risk serious jail time. As the Telegraph reported, "The maximum penalty for the crime of administering a drug to induce miscarriage under the relevant law—the Offences Against The Person Act 1861—is life imprisonment." But despite recent polls showing widespread support for an easing of the laws, politicians in Northern Ireland voted this year to reaffirm their draconian, restrictive rules. As a result, many women seeking to end pregnancies are forced to do so in neighboring countries—an option not all women can afford.
Courtney Robinson, one of the women on hand for the Northern Ireland delivery, said in a statement posted by Women on Waves:
The right to safe abortion should be a private matter but by criminalizing it has instead become a political issue. I have the human right to access and use these medicines.
In that same release, Rita Herold, of the reproductive rights organization Rosa, which also participated in the drop, said:
Abortion is criminalised in both Northern Ireland and the Republic. We sent the pills across the border today as an act of solidarity with women in NI who are currently facing prosecutions. This is outrageous. Today's action is a clear message of intent - North and South we will build an unstoppable movement of women and young people until women have the right to control their own bodies.
According to Women on Waves, the drone launch was accompanied by a simultaneous delivery of pregnancy terminating medication by a radio controlled speedboat. Activists were also encouraged to attend a protest outside Belfast's Court of Appeal that afternoon.