THE DAILY REPORT
ABORTION NEWS | Web Site Offers Medical Abortion Drugs to Women in Countries Where Access is Heavily Restricted
[July 14, 2008]
Some women living in countries where abortion is restricted are using the Internet to purchase the drugs mifepristone and misoprostol to induce abortion, according to a review published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
, BBC News
reports (Dreaper, BBC News
, 7/11). The drugs are available via the Web site, Women on Web
. The Web site, which describes itself as "a digital community of women who have had abortions and individuals and organizations that support abortion rights," states its goal as helping women to "gain access to a safe abortion with pills in order to reduce the number of deaths due to unsafe abortions."
The Web has been translated into five languages and women in more than 70 countries have used it to purchase drugs for 55 British pounds, or about $110, the PA/Independent
reports. Women on Web sends the drugs only to countries where abortion is heavily restricted and only to women who declare they are less than nine weeks pregnant (Watson, PA/Independent
The review of 400 of the Web site's customers found that nearly 11% of them needed a surgical procedure after using the medications, either because the drugs had not completed the abortion or because of excessive bleeding, BBC News
reports. About 8% of the women who ordered the medication did not end up using it, according to the review. Of 200 women who answered questions about their experiences, 58% said they were just grateful to have been able to have an abortion in this way, while 31% said it had been stressful but they found the experience acceptable.
The Family Planning Association
in Northern Ireland, a country that "heavily" restricts abortion, has received several calls from women considering buying the drugs online, BBC News
reports. Northern Ireland FPA Director Audrey Simpson said, "The Women on Web site is very helpful and reputable," adding, "But for Northern Ireland women, it is encouraging them to break the law -- and as an organization, we have to work within the law." Simpson also said, "We're really concerned about women accessing the rogue sites -- we're hearing about it and we know it's happening. There are potentially serious medical complications for women from sites which aren't well managed and this could be the new era of backstreet abortions."
Josephine Quintavalle of the group Comment on Reproductive Ethics
said, "This is very worrying indeed. It represents further trivialization of the value of the unborn child. It's like taking abortion into the shadows. These drugs have side effects and tragedies will increase" (BBC News
Martin Lupton, chair of the ethics committee of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
, said, "The problem with termination services available without access to medical oversight is that we know that women often understate their gestation," adding, "The very people who may benefit from this service may have problems with literacy and may not understand their underlying medical conditions." Lupton added, "They are putting themselves at risk in taking these tablets. Having said that, access to illegal termination services is extremely hazardous in any case and it may well be that this is a safer form of termination than illegal surgical methods, which may be the only alternative they have" (PA/Independent
The information contained in this publication reflects media coverage of women’s health issues and does not necessarily reflect the views of the National Partnership for Women & Families.