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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: July 11, 2008 @ 10:01 am

    Abortion on the internet revives an old controversy

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    As a morning-radio addict, I find it often has a soporific effect and helps me go back to sleep before the inevitable moment when the day must start. But I nearly jumped out of bed when the BBC’s Today programme reported that medications which induce an abortion can now be obtained on the internet.

            This morning’s programme revealed that a group called Women on Web is offering customers the opportunity to perform abortions on themselves with a combination of pills that are ordered by post.

            Women on Web is reportedly available in five languages and mails the drugs mifepristone and misoprostol only to jurisdictions where abortion is heavily restricted, and to women who declare they are less than nine weeks pregnant. Women in Northern Ireland – and presumably the Republic – have used the internet site to purchase the medications for a minimum donation of €70 (£55) a time.

            However the report adds that a study published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology found that 11% of 400 customers went on to need a surgical procedure – either because the drugs had not completed the abortion or because of excessive bleeding.

               Needless to say, anti-abortion campaigners are already up in arms over this development. Journalists in Ireland will feel a strong sense of déjà vu. Those of us who were around in the 1980s spent a great deal of time on the “A-word” and now it could be a case of back to the future. Way back then, before the internet and cheap cross-channel air travel, it was a case of taking the mailboat to England which, whatever one’s moral stance on the issue, must have been pretty rough on a woman already several months pregnant. 

            Northern Ireland Family Planning Association director Audrey Simpson told the BBC: “The Women On Web site is very helpful and reputable. But for Northern Ireland women, it is encouraging them to break the law – and as an organisation, we have to work within the law. We’re really concerned about women accessing the rogue sites – we’re hearing about it and we know it’s happening. There are potentially serious medical complications for women from sites which aren’t well managed and this could be the new era of backstreet abortions.”

    Deaglán de Bréadún, Political Correspondent, The Irish Times

    • Tim says:

      This is not a mere “feminist” issue. Fathers and sons are involved too.

    • Thomas says:

      This particular website advises that the drugs are safe so long as you live near a hospital. If the IFPA really cared about women’s health then surely they should condemn the website?? Not call it ‘reputable’.

    • Deaglán says:

      Thanks, Thomas, for your comment. I thought this post would generate a greater response. Abortion used to be a huge issue in Ireland, but not any more it seems, despite the fact that an expert on the subject informs me that abortion is in fact legal in this country.

    • thomas says:

      Hi Deaglán, I still think it’s a big issue but there is a sense that the Irish citizen is saturated with the debate and the fact that economics takes increasing precedence in public discussion, rather than social or ethical issues. Since the X case the major studies (STAKES report, Finland 2003 & Prof. Ferguson, New Zealand, 2007) point to abortion increasing the risk of suicide, not acting as a ‘remedy’ of some sort. I presume this sort of evidence would influence law reform in the area of abortion.

    • James Bredin says:

      Here in Toronto we have many abortion clinics and they even advertise on the Internet. Twelve year old girls don’t have to advise their parents.

      These decisions were not made by politicians but by a feminist Supreme Court who make their own laws. And it appears that the slaughter of unborn babies is allowed.

      Public apathy about this slaughter could be compared to public apathy in Germany during the WW2 concerning the Jews.

    • I note that your surname is the same as the Engish version of mine. Have you got Irish connections? We might be related!

    • Blimey 'Riley says:

      What is your objection? Abortion or the availability of abortifacients on the web?

    • Blimey 'Riley says:

      Re:5 I take it that your only comment regarding the inflammatory use of the term ‘slaughter’ iro abortion is to enquire about the coincidence of surnames, indicates the you are not offended by the comparison between abortion and the pogroms in Nazi Germany.
      Unlike your outraged response to a comparison between the treatment of the Catholics in NI and Apartheid in Serth Efrekeh!
      It’s almost cod Irish to read a Senior Journalist ask such a crass question…it’s the sort of thing people used to ask on returning to Ireland and told someone you lived in London… i.e.do you know their son daughter or other relation…!
      Dunno but I think there might just be more than one Bredin in Canada…

    • Deaglán says:

      I have to say that I find that comment gratuitously offensive. The name is quite an unusual one.

      As for your other query, the information you require is at http://www.iristimes.com/blogs/politics and if you scroll down it is on the right hand side under “Archives”.

    • Blimey O'Riley says:

      I seem to be met with my own expressions everywhere on this blog.
      Still they say ‘a fish rots from the head’.
      I can only assume the blogger was of the same mind since he didn’t reply!
      I know where the archives are but the system is somewhat random being neither in topic or date order.
      But thanks ‘jellytots’!!

    • Blimey O'Riley says:

      Compared to the comments calling into account your professional integrity, I would have thought any ‘reasonable person’ would consider this rather mild.
      However as I have learned this is a concept anathema to the Blogerati/Politerati.
      Perhaps you would apply the same standards across the board and moderate some of the hostile/sinister comments directed at me, by the more extreme element of what you so aptly describe as ‘moody loners with handguns’

    • Deaglán says:

      1) The archives section is divided up on a month-by-month basis. There is also a facility for searching the politics blogs at the top right-hand corner of the web page. Where a person has used a variety of pseudonyms, obviously the search is that much more difficult.
      2) With the greatest respect, may I say that a lot of your comments appear to be made on a very spontaneous basis, without much reflection. Maybe if you thought a bit more before you write them, they would contain a little more depth?
      3) I don’t know what “sinister” comments have been made about you, in your pseudonymous blog persona. I would just ask you to refrain from gratuitously nasty jibes.

    • Blimey O'Riley says:

      2 Depth on a blog? I have neither the energy or the inclination to take seriously those who are unable to debate at the most basic level or differentiate between criticism of the comment and the commentator

      You may recall my various requests to play the ball not the wo/man only to receive snide comments back from you, which of course set the standards by which the game is played.

      ‘Gratuitous nasty jibes’ perhaps this could be directed to the principal offenders and those whose defamatory remarks you seem able to tolerate. As I have previously stated I find some of the comments repugnant and at times disturbing and occasionally bordering on the insane.

      I have no intention of posting any further comments on your blog, however I expect you and your colleague to ensure that the same criteria is applied when moderating comments made about me as those made by me.

      There is one blogger who seems to have some kind of fixation about me and what I write, although it does not deter her from adopting what I write as her own. I find this slightly sinister and alarming.

      If you claim not to be aware of this then I submit you are not reading/moderating the blog very thoroughly.

      Her comments are offensive personal and inappropriate and where this is the case I want them STOPPED.

      That’s all I have to say let’s leave it at the no need to reply .


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