Activists say they will use robots to bring abortion pills to Northern Ireland, where abortion is legal only when the woman's life is in danger. While it is illegal in the region for a pregnant woman to have a medical abortion in almost all cases, the organizations that serve the robots on Wednesday said they are not breaking any laws because the robots are operated abroad by the Netherlands.
The initiative is the result of a collaboration between women on waves, the pro-choice nonprofit organization, the online abortion service Women on Web and the socialist women's movement ROSA Northern Ireland. The robots will not solve the region's restrictive abortion laws, but they will serve as a signal to those who are watching people fight for stronger reproductive rights.
"The abortion robot will highlight the divergent legal reality for Northern Irish women who still rely on new technologies, such as telemedicine, drones and robots, that use international loopholes to protect their rights," Women on Waves
Gizmodo has turned to Women on Waves for more information on how the robots and pills are delivered to Northern Ireland. The group plans to deliver livestream deliveries on May 31
The organization also noted in its press release that it is illegal for women in Northern Ireland to have a medical abortion – rape, incest and severe fetal anomaly are not even exceptions – it is also a "grave violation of their human rights" for somebody like the government to force her to do a pregnancy test. Just last month, the Belfast City Council has decriminalized women who have medical abortions. "A woman who has an abortion is not a criminal or a healthcare professional looking after her, and the law should not treat her as such," the council said.
Women in Northern Ireland have to travel to other countries – England, Scotland, Wales and now the Republic of Ireland – to legally have an abortion. Pro-abortion laws in Northern Ireland are similar to those the Republic of Ireland had before its referendum last week, when citizens voted to lift the abortion ban. This is because the 1967 Abortion Act, which legalized abortion access in the UK, was not enforced in Northern Ireland.
A physician will advise women in Belfast from their location in Amsterdam, according to Women on Waves. The organization also helped deliver abortion pills to Northern Ireland with a drone in 2016.