The Sky is Not the Limit: Abortion Drone Flight to Northern Ireland

This blog post was written by youth SRHR advocate and new member to Youth Coalition, Hazal Atay. Hazal is a Turkish feminist studying and working in the field of sexual and reproductive rights. She is currently finalizing her master’s thesis on women’s political participation in Turkey at Paris EHESS and working with Women on Waves. 

Gone are the days when women are excluded from technology and deprived of their basic rights to bodily autonomy. From here on in, feminism has gone high-tech, starting with drones delivering abortion pills!

On June 21st, an abortion drone flew from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland to deliver abortion pills. The action was organized in collaboration with Alliance for Choice, ROSA, Labour Alternative, the Abortion Rights Campaign, and Women on Waves, and supported by Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights. This was the second abortion drone flight, with the first abortion drone delivering abortion pills from Germany to Poland last year.

The abortion drone aimed to demonstrate the different abortion realities of Irish women on opposite sides of the border. In the past, there has been a contraceptive train, an abortion ship, and abortion trains and buses, and now we have the abortion drone! These short flights symbolize the difficulties pregnant people face in accessing safe abortion services and also manifest the determination of these people to gain ownership of their rights.  I arrived in Dublin one day before the action and met with the amazing Women on Waves and Women on Web team. Women on Waves, mostly known with its abortion ship campaigns, is a Dutch NGO working in the field of sexual and reproductive rights. Women on Web is a tele-medical service providing information and advice on sexual and reproductive health to thousands of women across the world. Together, we went on a fact-finding mission on the Northern Ireland side at Narrow Water Castle where the drone was set to fly to and carried out a test flight: We were ready to occupy the sky!

On the day of the action, we met with ROSA activists. ROSA is an Irish pro-choice group fighting for “Reproductive rights, and against Oppression, Sexism and Austerity”. We were divided into two groups as some of us left for the north side of the border. I stayed with ROSA activists in the south. As the abortion drone started to rise, women were shouting:

“Our body, our choice!”

“Not the Church, Not the State, Women must decide their Fate!”

After the drone landed in Northern Ireland, two women swallowed the abortion pills in front of police and media. The drone flight was planned carefully to adhere to drone regulations in both countries. It reached the women without breaking the law and demonstrated the absurdity of the existing abortion restrictions. Through this great collaboration, we flew above the law!

In Ireland, abortion is allowed only in cases where continuing a pregnancy would result in death. ROSA activists have long been campaigning to Repeal the 8th Amendment which stands as a principal barrier within the constitution, criminalizing abortion. In Northern Ireland, it is unlawful to perform abortions except in very limited circumstances. Whereas these services are freely provided elsewhere in the UK, in Northern Ireland, those who seek abortions are routinely criminalized.

Following the abortion drone action, several protests and press conferences were organized in Belfast and Dublin. In a meeting with the Anti-Austerity Alliance on June 22nd, founder and director of Women on Waves Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, indicated that above all access to abortion is a matter of social justice.

For me, taking part in the abortion drone action was an exciting and meaningful experience. Reproductive rights are human rights, and if it takes flying a pharmaceutical toting drone across borders to prove our message, so be it and we can do it!

At the end of the day, what we want is a just society where we have full control over our bodies, and we were there at both sides of the border to make sure of that!

Press release

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