TWO WOMEN a day in Great Britain are illegally buying abortion pills online.
But while it is legal to get abortion pills via a clinic in England, Scotland and Wales, buying them online could be punished with up to life in prison.
According to new data released by Women on Web, a Dutch charity that sends abortion pills to women who can’t access abortion for a suggested donation of €70-90, the number of online requests they receive from Great Britain has increased.
Their review found 100 requests over a 7 week period, or an average of 2 per day.
The increase is believed to be as a result of long difficulty accessing NHS services as a result of long waits, or not having a clinic nearby, as well as social media creating an increased awareness of online abortion pill providers.
WHAT IS AN ABORTION PILL?
The abortion pill is taken to end a pregnancy and is made up of two parts which must be taken, 24 to 48 hours apart, at a clinic.
The first part is mifepristone, which works by blocking the hormone progesterone.
Once blocked, the uterus lining breaks down and the pregnancy cannot continue.
The second pill, called misoprostol is inserted into the vagina and makes the womb contract. This engenders cramping and bleeding about two hours later.
How do you get one?
Abortion pills are sold online – but, in England, it's currently illegal to take them outside a clinic and without medical approval.
Government figures show 375 doses, sent to addresses in England, Wales, and Scotland, were seized in 2016, compared with just five in 2013.
The figures, from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – which regulates medicines in the UK – show there were 375 pills seized last year, up from 270 in 2015 and 180 in 2014.
The seizures were made during the MHRA's annual week-long raids, known as Operation Pangea, at places like postal hubs where foreign post is kept before being distributed to local post offices.
The UK currently has the harshest punishment for self-induced abortion of any country in Europe, bar the Republic of Ireland.
Earlier this year the government revised rules around early medical abortion – where a pregnancy can be ended by taking two sets of pills in the first ten weeks – so that the second set of pills can be taken at home, but a woman must still attend two appointments at an abortion clinic, and have the procedure signed off by two doctors.
British women requesting pills from Women on Web said they felt unable to get to a doctor because caring responsibilities, or being unable to get away from an abusive partner, made it impossible for them to attend two appointments.
“I thought about going to the doctor but that is not an option as my partner will find out and I am just not ready for the upset and fall out,” one woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said in her request to Women on Web.
Another woman had considered harming herself to end the pregnancy after her GP told her there would be a five week wait to get an NHS consultation for an abortion.
I've been in a horrible abusive relationship and I've just found out I'm pregnant and I absolutely cannot keep this baby, I'm contemplating falling down the stairs over this I am at a total loss, I'm scared, and I’m alone
She said: “I've been in a horrible abusive relationship and I've just found out I'm pregnant and I absolutely cannot keep this baby, I'm contemplating falling down the stairs over this I am at a total loss, I'm scared, and I’m alone.”
Having nobody to look after her son while travelling a long distance to an abortion clinic was the reason another woman went to Women on Web for the pills.
“I have a one year old son with no childcare at all,” she said.
“My nearest clinic is 53 miles away from me and there is no possible way of me going there without public transport and as you can imagine that would be a nightmare.”
Mental health issues provided an obstacle for one woman accessing abortion at a clinic.
“I suffer from panic disorder which leaves me unable to go out,” she said. “I really don’t want to continue with this pregnancy due to the fact I am trying to get myself stable.”
Dr Kate Guthrie, a spokesperson for Women on Web, told The Sun that despite only advertising in countries where abortion is illegal, women in countries where abortion is legal were finding them on social media.
“It doesn’t advertise itself in Britain because it shouldn’t have to,” she said. “It’s social media that flags up to women that this exists.”
Guthrie added: "These women are social media savvy and know how to use it."
No woman should face prison for needing to end her own pregnancy
A new poll by YouGov and abortion provider British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) found that 65% of British adults want to see the law changed so that women would not face prison if for buying abortion pills. Only 14% already knew that accessing abortion in this way was illegal.
Last week MPs voted to repeal the law criminalising abortion in Northern Ireland – where abortion is currently illegal – but in the rest of the UK this law will still stand. In England, Scotland and Wales, only when women get an abortion at a clinic and have it signed off by two doctors do they not face prison.
Campaigners are now calling for abortion to be decriminalised across the whole of the UK, which would make it easier for women to get abortion pills from their GP locally, and with only one appointment. It could also make it possible to get abortion pills from registered providers online.
“No woman should face prison for needing to end her own pregnancy and we are pleased though unsurprised to see the British public agree with us,” Clare Murphy, director of external affairs at BPAS said.
“The decriminalisation of abortion does not mean deregulation, but it would mean women could seek help and support closer to home.
“We need to get rid of these offensive laws that have no place in a world which respects women and their ability to make their own decisions for themselves and their families in pregnancy, and we need an abortion framework fit for women’s needs in the 21st Century.”
In other health news, a granddad has claimed that dog medicine got rid of his "head-to-toe" cancer after doctors gave him three months to live.
And we showed you a Pygmy tribe where women are so unhappy they give themselves DIY abortions using tree bark.
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