Study on "safety" of online abortion pills sparks reaction among campaign groups

Bernedette Smyth of Precious Life has criticised new research on the abortion medication. Picture by Hugh Russell.
Seanín Graham

PRO-CHOICE campaigners have called for the legalisation of abortion pills after a new study found they were safe for the majority of Irish women who had bought them online.

However, anti-abortion group Precious Life has lambasted the international research and questioned its "credibility".

Published in the British Medical Journal, the University of Texas paper surveyed online feedback from 1,000 women from the Republic and Northern Ireland who accessed abortion medication bought on the Internet to end an early pregnancy.

The cases were followed up four weeks later and it was discovered that rates of adverse events were low (95 per cent said they had a "successful" intervention) while women who developed potentially serious complications were able to seek medical attention.

Abortion is only legal in the north if a mother's life is at risk.

Last year a number of women were charged with buying and using online abortion tablets, with one high-profile conviction.

Kellie O'Dowd from Alliance for Choice said the study showed the "safety" of the medication but warned that it "was not good enough on the island of Ireland that women get their abortion pills from the Internet.”

But Precious Life's director Bernadette Smyth said there is "no such thing as a safe abortion".

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".

Marion Woods of Life NI also criticised the findings and warned against taking the medication "without first contacting their registered GP or health provide

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