Facebook Ireland to investigate ads on ‘abortion pill reversal’

Three such adverts appeared on the platform here reaching ‘up to’ three million people

Facebook Ireland has said it will investigate claims of ads posted to promote controversial abortion pill "reversal" procedures.

The social media company’s ad library recently showed records of 92 such ads in the US which, according to its own analytics, were viewed by users up to 18.4 million times since January, 2020.

The claims were first published last month in a report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH).

Separate data provided by the organisation to The Irish Times showed that three such adverts appeared on its platform here reaching “up to” three million people, citing internal Facebook analytics. Two ads were also found on the UK platform - reaching as many as 1.5 million users - according to CCDH which named two pro-life organisations as being behind them.


“In both countries, ads were targeted at women as young as 18,” the CCDH said.

A spokeswoman for Facebook Ireland said they were not aware of the Irish ads but would investigate and remove them if they were in breach of rules.

“We removed many of the [US] ads in the report for violating our policies and continue to reject others that break our rules,” she said.

The revelations concerning the controversial ads comes just as Facebook is facing into a whistleblower maelstrom regarding behind the scenes research conducted at it and Instagram, which it also owns. That scandal has been described as the company's biggest reputational crisis for years.

In its research covering both Facebook and Google, the CCDH accused them of taking money for ads that "promote an unproven and unsafe medical procedure - so-called abortion 'reversal'."

“Clinical studies show this procedure is dangerous, potentially causing severe haemorrhaging. In every case these ads violate the platforms’ own standards.”

The treatment in question relates to the theoretical use of high doses of the progesterone hormone in order to reverse the effects of taking mifepristone, the first of two drugs used in a medical abortion.

On its website, the Health Service Executive (HSE) says medical abortion involves taking two medications to end a pregnancy. "Once you take mifepristone, the abortion will begin. It is irreversible," it says.

Obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Aoife Mullally, the HSE's clinical lead for abortion, said "there is no such thing as 'abortion reversal'. The practice is not recommended by any professional body that looks after women or provides abortion care."

Dr Mullally said it is a non-evidence based treatment that can be associated with heavy bleeding and further pregnancy complications.

A link to an Irish website promoting the use of reversal treatment appears to have been taken offline.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times