A free aftercare helpline for women in Ireland who have taken abortion medication they bought online has been launched by a British family planning service.
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (Bpas) is extending its helpline to women in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man who have bought pills online from two not-for-profit organisations.
It said women who could not travel for an abortion had “no choice” but to break the law and order pills on the internet.
The service said women in Ireland were increasingly using this option as the logistics and costs of travel, treatment and accommodation abroad could be prohibitive.
It said the pills provided by the two organisations were “a safe, effective alternative for women unable to continue their pregnancies”.
Medical abortion at up to 10 weeks involves taking two sets of medications: mifepristone, which detaches the pregnancy from the lining of the womb, and then misoprostol, which causes the womb to contract and expel the foetus.
"The confidential nurse-led telephone service will offer advice to women who have obtained pills from the online not-for-profit clinics run by Women Help Women (WHW) and Women on Web (WOW) and who are concerned about any symptoms or simply want to speak to someone," Bpas said.
It said that while adverse effects were “extremely unlikely”, it was concerned that women may not always seek help when they needed it because taking the pills was an illegal act.
“Women will be able to seek reassurance on the telephone about levels of bleeding, what to do if it appears nothing has happened, and when care should be accessed urgently.
“On the very rare occasion we believe emergency help is required, we will also call an ambulance.”
Bpas chief executive Ann Furedi said women "shouldn't have to make the choice between travelling to England and breaking the law by purchasing pills online".
The helpline numbers are: 1800-910049 (from Ireland); 0800-0776049 (from Northern Ireland) and 0800-0776049 (from the Isle of Man).