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Women Can Safely Induce Their Own Abortions, New Study Finds

18 May 2017
Women Can Safely Induce Their Own Abortions, New Study Finds

In Ireland and Northern Ireland, where abortion is a criminal offense in most cases, women are increasingly turning to organizations such as Women on Web, a nonprofit that provides abortion-inducing medicines and remote real-time instruction on their use, said Abigail Aiken, an assistant professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and the lead author of a report on research into abortions via telemedicine.

Nearly all of the women (95 per cent) said their attempt at ending their pregnancy was "successful". The women were in the early stages of pregnancy, at up to 9 weeks.

She added that the group that provided the research on which the study was based was "putting the lives and health of pregnant women in Ireland at risk by promoting self-use of abortion pills". Ireland and Northern Ireland have very strict abortion laws, with approval being granted only when a woman's life is at risk.

The study analyzed 1,000 women residing in Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland who underwent abortion using WoW's services between January 2010 and December 2012.

Overall, study authors found that self-sourced medical abortion via an online telemedicine service could be highly effective. The vast majority of women who had bad reactions after taking the drugs sought appropriate medical help, a study has found. Seven women needed a blood transfusion at a clinic; another 26 received antibiotics. "For many women throughout the South, Appalachia and the Midwest, where state laws have forced clinics to close ... self-sourced abortions can be safe as long as they're run through a sound model". "Moreover, women are highly capable of managing their own abortions and seeking medical attention when the need arises", Aiken told MedPage Today.

However, recent developments have been made thanks to the Citizens' Assembly and the work of the Repeal Project, with calls for the 8th Amendment which prohibit abortion to be changed or abolished.

Until then, for the first time in history, women of all social classes in a legally restricted yet high resource setting have equitable access to a reasonable alternative: "medical abortion guided by physicians through telemedicine", they conclude.

The service's doctors record information on a woman's pregnancy and give her a prescription for abortion pills, and a third-party company fills the prescription and sends it to her in the mail. In the last few years, women have been prosecuted for doing their own abortions at home through online telemedicine.

Online abortion kits are illegal in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

This means women who end their pregnancy by buying illegal abortion pills online are technically at risk of life imprisonment.

According to the researchers, these women were no more likely to suffer complications or side effects than those who had taken pills in front of a doctor or nurse.

Taking abortion pills without medical approval is illegal throughout the United Kingdom, but doctors can legally prescribe the pills to patients in Great Britain. "Women in these countries often resort to unsafe methods to end their pregnancies", the Irish researchers write. "Here in the United States, we owe it to vulnerable women as well as their unborn children to conduct neutral, national reporting on abortion pill complications and restore strict FDA regulation of these risky drugs", he said.