Confidential helpline launched for Irish women who buy abortion pills online

UK abortion provider extends aftercare support to women using illegal medication bought online

Confidential helpline launched for Irish women who buy abortion pills online

Activist Briana O'Doherty after she took a train with other pro-choice campaigners from Dublin to Belfast to bring back abortion pills in 2014 | Photo: PA Images

A free, confidential helpline has been set up for Irish women who have used abortion pills bought online.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) is providing aftercare support to women in the Republic and Northern Ireland who have purchased pills from online, not-for-profit clinics.

The abortion provider said medication purchased online from Women Help Women (WHW) and Women on Web (WOW) provide a "safe, effective alternative" for women unable to travel abroad.

Taking and distributing such pills is currently illegal under Irish law.

However, the medicines supplied by the two groups in question – misoprostol and mifepristone – are approved for use by the World Health Organisation.

Women can safely perform medical abortions with these types of pills up to nine weeks into their pregnancies, according to the UN agency.

Callers to the helpline will be able to seek reassurance from qualified nurses about levels of bleeding, what to do if it appears the attempted termination has been unsuccessful and when care should be accessed urgently.

"On the very rare occasion we believe emergency help is required, we will also call an ambulance," BPAS said.

Women who have purchased online medication from services not provided by WHW and WOW will be advised to seek medical help immediately.

Ann Furedi, the chief executive of BPAS, said: “What these women really need are accessible, high-quality abortion services at home.

"They shouldn't have to make the choice between travelling to England and breaking the law by purchasing pills online...

"We will be here for these women 24 hours a day until they no longer need us."

Early medical abortion involves taking mifepristone, which detaches the pregnancy from the lining of the womb, followed by misoprostol, which causes the womb to contract and expel the pregnancy.

The Life Institute condemned the move, describing it as a "stunt designed to promote abortion rather than a genuine effort to help women".

"Clearly, if BPAS was actually concerned here they would ask WHW and WOW, their partners in crime here, to stop their actions," spokesperson Niamh Ui Bhriain said.

"Instead they want to provide a phone line to advise women who are in need of help precisely because they have taken an illegal abortion pill.

"Maybe they would consider putting this time and money into actually helping women, who are all too often seeking abortion in fear and panic, have their babies and raise their babies."

The aftercare helpline numbers are 1800 910 049 from Ireland and 0800 077 6049 for Northern Ireland.