On Thursday, a few days after the Republic of Ireland voted in a referendum to overturn its nearly absolute ban on abortion, pro-choice advocates in Northern Ireland, where abortion is still outlawed under Victorian-era law, staged a bold and creative protest of the oppressive status quo.
The Guardian reports that activists took what they claimed were abortion pills outside court buildings in Belfast, and in front of news cameras. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom where abortion is outlawed.
Reuters reports that robots were maneuvered by two feminist groups—Rosa and Women on Waves—into the city’s streets to deliver the pills. The robots were reportedly controlled remotely from the Netherlands, thus demonstrating an elaborate method by which pills could be delivered to women in Northern Ireland without breaking the law.
One of the women who took the pill was Eleanor Crossey Malone, a member of the socialist feminist movement Rosa, who told onlookers, “I have taken this in defiance of the extremely outdated, medieval, anti-choice laws the exist in Northern Ireland. We are not willing in the wake of the repeal referendum to be left behind any longer.”
Malone added, “Northern Ireland after repeal will be one of only two jurisdictions remaining in Europe to criminalize women effectively for having abortions. We are not willing to accept it any more.”
Cops tried to remove one of the pill-taking women from the scene, according to the Irish Times, but their display of authority only resulted in a short stand-off before the police gave up and walked away. After an hour-long demonstration, the pro-choice activists got on a bus and headed to the offices of the anti-abortion Democratic Unionist party, where they continued to protest.
Cops did apprehend the robots.