While there are many do-it-yourself projects that a person can complete with the assistance of experts on the Internet, a home abortion seems like an unlikely candidate to fit into that category. However, new research published recently in the medical journal BMJ suggests otherwise.
Yes, while some lawmakers have fought to ensure that abortion-providing clinics have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, the new study found that women seeking to terminate a pregnancy on their own, with the help of online telemedicine guides, can do so safely and successfully.
The study, let by researchers from Princeton University, the University of Texas at Austin, and an international team of reproductive medicine specialists, looked at 1,000 women from Ireland and Northern Ireland (home to some of the strictest abortion laws in the world) who underwent abortions at home with the assistance of online telemedicine service Women on Web.
What they found, according to BBC News, is that 95 percent of the procedures were successful and that only one-tenth of the women had to receive some form of medical attention (including antibiotics or blood transfusions) following the successful termination of their pregnancies.
“This research shows that self-sourced medication abortion conducted entirely outside the formal healthcare setting, can have high rates of effectiveness and low rates of adverse outcomes,” lead author Abigail Aiken, an assistant professor at UT Austin, told ResearchGate. “Women can successfully manage their own abortions and recognize the symptoms of potential complications.”
Some advocates concerned over health risks of self-performed abortions
The 1,000 patients, who are legally prohibited from having abortions unless the mother’s life (Ireland) or health (Northern Ireland) is at risk, ordered abortion drugs through Women on Web and terminated their pregnancies at home between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2012.
Aiken and her colleagues analyzed reports from the women four weeks after they used the drugs mifepristone and misoprostol to terminate their early-stage pregnancies, the study explained. No face-to-face interviews were conducted; the data was gathered by the website which provided the abortifacients, BBC News said.
“We’ve known for some time that women in Ireland and Northern Ireland self-source their own abortions using online telemedicine” due to the restrictive laws, Aiken told ResearchGate. “Yet very little was previously known about the outcomes of those abortions. How safe and effective are they? We wanted to address that knowledge gap with this study.”
“When most people think about self-sourced or self-induced abortion, they tend to think about coat hangers or cold steel tables in back alleys,” the study author added. “But these findings show that in 2017, self-sourced abortion involves a network of people helping and supporting each other through a safe and effective process in their own homes. That’s a huge step forward for public health.”
However, Bernadette Smyth, director of the anti-abortion group Precious Life, took issue with the study, telling BBC News that it was “putting the lives and health of pregnant women in Ireland at risk by promoting self-use of abortion pills.” Another advocate, Marion Woods of Life NI, cautioned that “nobody should be taking medical pills of this kind without first contacting their registered GP or health provider.”
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