Health department warns of ‘risks to women’ over DIY abortions

An abortion activist with pills in Belfast in 2018An abortion activist with pills in Belfast in 2018
An abortion activist with pills in Belfast in 2018
The Department of Health has warned that women “are at risk” if they choose to pursue do-it-yourself terminations.

It made the comments in response to a course which is due to be held tomorrow, instructing women on “self-managed abortion”.

The course is being run by Alliance for Choice, a group which has long called for more relaxed abortion laws on both sides of the border.

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It is to be an online session, and the group describes it as follows: “Learn all about the process of self-managed abortion with pills, how to look after yourself or help someone else using the medication.”

Asked about the course, the Department of Health told the News Letter: “Women are at risk if they access unregulated abortion services.

“The Department’s view is that services should be properly delivered through direct medical supervision within the health and social care system.”

The Royal College of Midwives has previously told the News Letter that taking non-prescribed abortion pills can be hazardous, so “we would advise [women] not to”.

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Alliance for Choice responded: “This is part of the joint activities with our partner the Abortion Rights Campaign to commemorate International Day of Safe Abortion.

“The theme this year is ‘I manage my abortion’ and our local theme is ‘care at home’.

“The home use of abortion pills following consultation with a medical professional is safe and it is healthcare that should be commissioned by the Department of Health in NI following the regulations.

“People should not be forced to travel to GB to access abortion care, which the Northern Ireland Office and Department of Health suggest as an acceptable pathway.

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“Currently across GB there are measures for telemedicine and home use of pills in place, NI once again stands as a place apart failing to offer those who need abortions care even though there is now a legal obligation for these services to be provided.”

The group added: “Our session on abortion pills details the drugs used for early medical abortion, the methods of taking the pills for the most effective outcomes, the safety measures for afterwards, how to look out for complications, and what to do if they arise.”

It said that it has been running similar workshops for almost seven years, and that their advice is based on the recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO), among other agencies.

Hazal Atay of Women on Web (an international abortion group) said: “Today, the WHO affirms that individuals can self-manage their abortions up until 13 weeks and recommends telemedicine abortion services to be expanded to ensure access to abortion.”

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They added that the WHO “suggests that self-management of medical abortion is non-invasive, cost-effective, acceptable and improves autonomy”.

The organisation InformingChoicesNI (which acts as the main official conduit for arranging abortions in NI) says that since last October abortion has been decriminalised in the Province leading to a situation where, at present, terminations up to 10 weeks are available by attending a government clinic to take the first pill, with a second pill to be taken at home.

It says abortions later than that are available via the British Pregnancy Advisory Service.


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