Letter to the editor, Belfast Telegraph, 16 January 2017

16/01/2017 Comments Off on Letter to the editor, Belfast Telegraph, 16 January 2017

Dear Belfast Telegraph,

RE: Suicide risk to woman accused of using poison to have abortion, court hears, by Alan Erwin, 11/01/2017

I find it quaint that you describe the medical abortion pills mifepristone + misoprostol as “poison” in your articles about prosecutions of Northern Irish women, and now a couple, who have used them to induce an abortion. I’m curious to know how often and on what other subjects you adopt such an archaic and inaccurate 19th century term to describe something that is happening today in an entirely new and safe way.

In the 19th century, when the 1861 Offences against the Person Act was passed, covering a wide range of violent crimes, it included as a crime dangerous abortions for which actual poisonous substances were used in desperation, and did kill or injure women. For that time, and those substances, the term was accurate and made sense.

But now, more than 150 years later, we are talking about two medications developed by a bona fide pharmaceutical company, researched in depth over many years since the early 1980s by scientists working with the World Health Organization, who determined the safest and most effective doses and regimens for both medications, both when used together or with misoprostol alone. Placed on the WHO Essential Medicines list. Approved by almost all governments who allow legal abortions. And even being used in Scandinavia almost exclusively for all abortions.

And yet you are still clinging to the term “poison”? How backward-looking! Why? You’re missing the real story here!

Yours sincerely, Marge Berer


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