Belfast Telegraph

Five women a day seek online abortion pills, study finds

Ruth Coppinger TD said the medication is an ‘escape valve’ without which there would be deaths.

Campaigners have said five women a day in Ireland seek abortion pills online.

Ruth Coppinger TD said the state is “delighted” about this as without this “escape valve” women would die.

She spoke at a press conference in Dublin ahead of a briefing for senators and TDs.

Abortion is currently only available in the Republic when a mother’s life is at risk, but not in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, rape or incest.

Draft legislation to be introduced if the referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment is passed later this month proposes enabling unrestricted terminations for pregnancies up to 12 weeks.

Abigail Aiken, assistant professor at the University of Texas, Austin, told the conference there were no fatalities in the 1,000 women in Ireland involved in a study she led which showed an estimated five per day requested abortion pills online.

She said: “Had we not these online telemedicine services run by doctors, I’m not sure I’d be able to sit here and tell you that there had been no fatalities because the things that people have looked for trying to find these services are shocking.”

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A view of posters in favour of and against abortion (Niall Carson/PA)

A recent study she carried out of 40 women in Ireland found they considered falling downstairs, drinking alcohol and being punched in the stomach as methods of abortion before finding the online pills.

She said of the 1,000 in the previous study 95% end their pregnancy without complications, 5% need a minor surgical procedure to do so and 3% needed medical treatment for a complication.

A total of 63% of those requesting the pills already have children.

She said the women reported being unable to contact a doctor or lying to them for fear of criminalisation, adding: “We have to remember that its not the medication abortion pills that are the problem, it’s the impact of the law on women.”

Dr Rebecca Gomperts, medical director of Women on Web, the largest doctor-led telemedicine provider of the medication, said the pills were safer than taking penicillin.

Solidarity TD Ms Coppinger said: “If we legalise up to 12 weeks that would cater for 92% of all abortions that take place among Irish women… and could be done safely with the pills.”

She said: “The state in this country is delighted that Women on Web exists. Let’s be absolutely clear, it’s an escape valve.

“Because if Women on Web did not exist, and other reputable providers, there would be deaths, there would be injuries of poor women who can’t travel.”

John McGuirk, of the Save the 8th campaign, accused the Yes campaign of “scaremongering” over women being unable to go to their doctor if complications arise from the pills.

He claimed the Yes campaign has repeatedly said “how dangerous these abortion pills are”.

The referendum is due to be held on May 25.

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