Abortion pills for sale online mean ‘genie is out of the bottle’, says Boylan

The constitutional ban on abortion is ‘unworkable’, Prof Boylan will tell the Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment on Wednesday

The constitutional ban on abortion is "unworkable" because of online access to abortion pills, Peter Boylan, the former master of Holles St and chairman of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Ireland, will tell the Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment .

Prof Boylan, who has previously advocated in support of reforming the State’s abortion laws, will tell the committee that when the Eighth Amendment was enacted, “neither the world wide web nor the abortion pill had been invented.”

He will appear before the committee at its meeting tomorrow.

The availability of abortion-inducing drugs online, he says in his submission, means that “the genie is out of the bottle.”


Doctors have a “grave concern” about the potential for harm by the use of unregulated medicines, he says.

Prof Boylan will tell the committee that in the EU, 99 per cent of women have access to abortion up to 10 weeks of pregnancy. The remaining one per cent live in Ireland or Malta.

He will say that without the availability of abortion in the UK, there would be “an epidemic of illegal abortions and a massive increase in maternal mortality” in Ireland.

The referendum should put a simple question for repeal of the amendment, he will say, and if passed, the Oireachtas should legislate for the provision of abortion services.

In the meantime, he says, "women in Ireland will continue to access services in the UK or elsewhere in Europe, or access the abortion pills illegally."

Prof Boylan served as a member of the committee of independent experts which advised the Government on the implementation of the European Court of Human Rights judgment in respect of the X Case. This was a Supreme Court case which established the right of a woman to an abortion if her life was at risk because of pregnancy, including suicide. The outcome was The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act (2013).

He was also the independent expert witness for the coroner in the inquest into the death of Savita Halappanavar, a pregnant woman who died of sepsis in 2012.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times