Illegal Abortions Don't Always Happen in Back Alleys

pill bottleWhat happens when women who don't have access to safe abortion services need to terminate a pregnancy? Many feel they have no choice but to resort to extreme and dangerous alternatives.

A frightening trend among young women in Ireland is shedding light on the country's restrictive abortion laws. Because abortions are illegal in Ireland in most circumstances, more women than ever before are taking illegal abortion pills they purchased online. In doing so without the supervision of a medical expert or doctor, they are putting their health and -- in some cases -- their lives at great risk.

Are illegally purchased abortion pills becoming the coat hanger abortion of the 21st century?


First things first, what is meant by the term "abortion pill," at least with respect to how it's being used here? Early medical abortion typically involves taking two sets of medication in the first nine weeks of pregnancy: mifepristone and misoprostol. In Ireland, women who legally undergo this procedure visit their clinic as many as four times -- first, for a consultation; to take the first pill; to take the second pill; and, finally, to follow up on the procedure.

But an increasing number of women without access to abortion services are buying abortion pills for as little as $20 online and secretly taking them without a doctor's supervision. The risks involved with this are astronomical. A spokesperson for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service explained:

One of the biggest risks with buying drugs over the Internet is that in most cases they’re uncontrolled and unregulated so there’s no way of telling that they are what they say they are. This means they could be ineffective or even harmful.

In other words, it's imperative that women undergoing this procedure receive the advice of a medical expert so they know whether the pill should be taken, what dosage to take, what they can expect when they take it, and what to do in the case of serious complications (for instance, severe bleeding and infections).

Without this information, early medical abortion can put a woman's health at risk. Still, many women are choosing to go this route and hope for the "best." Is there anything more scary than playing Russian roulette with your body because you feel like you don't have anywhere else to turn?


Image via Charles Williams/Flickr

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