Are online abortion pills safe? A new study says yes, actually

Access to safe and affordable abortions is in jeopardy all over the world, but there might be a safe alternative for women who can’t find an abortion clinic or travel to one. A new study found that abortion pills bought online are safe for women, and definitely safer than other methods women might attempt if they can’t get to a clinic or doctor. The study, conducted by the University of Texas and published in the British Medical Journal, interviewed 1,000 women who purchased abortion pills online in Ireland, where abortion is totally restricted. They found that 95 percent of women safely followed the procedure. Others sought out medical advice or a doctor if they experienced complications.

All of the women accessed the pills through Women on Web (WoW), a non-profit group that provides help to women in countries where abortion is restricted. First, doctors review information provided by the patient and write a prescription for either mifepristone or misoprostol, the two available abortion drugs. Another company fills the prescription and sends the pills to the women in need. WoW employees provide online consultation before, during, and after the process. It’s a pretty genius way around abortion laws.

Women can be trusted to take online abortion pills safely.

Abigail Aiken, assistant professor of public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, who conducted the study said, “This is abortion entirely outside the formal healthcare setting: it is an online telemedicine model, but this research shows that it can be both safe and highly effective.”

None of the women died, though some women went to hospitals for blood transfusions and others for antibiotics, which, according to the study, is normal given the sample size of women. Aiken added:

“When we talk about self-sought, self-induced abortion, people think about coat hangers or they think about tables in back alleys. But I think this research really shows that in 2017 self-sourced abortion is a network of people helping and supporting each other through what’s really a safe and effective process in the comfort of their own homes, and I think is a huge step forward in public health.”[/subheader]

However, it’s still illegal in countries like Ireland and even the United States to self induce a miscarriage, so women are still meant to feel like criminals for ordering abortion pills. This is good news for public health, according to the researchers, but “it is not a positive thing for women’s lives because they still have to feel like criminals,” Aiken said.

But it’s good to know that there’s research showing that abortion pills are safe, that women can be trusted to make their own choices, and administer the pills without a doctor’s supervision. Even if they shouldn’t have to.