Abortion at home

It’s inevitable that the web will be used to promote do-it-yourself abortions in countries where elective abortion is banned. And that of course includes Ireland north and south. The BBC’s early lead today woke me up by headlining Northern Ireland in its story about a clinical review of the website Women on Web. Stand by for a flood of demands to close the site down. If the usual course of the abortion debate is followed, women in need will be left high and dry yet again.

I haven’t been able to access the full review by the British Journal of Obstetrics, but perhaps they’ll post it in their public section later in the day. Both the advantages and the risks are obvious. This is a classic case of the web forcing social change. In the long term, Ireland will not be exempt from the change to allow safe, clinically managed abortion. Meanwhile the BBC story carries a cautious quote from Northern Ireland Family Planning Association director Audrey Simpson:

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.”

This quote illustrates the bind the FPA and much of the medical profession are in. They can make a theoretical judgment but they cannot legally offer the therapy. Women on Web is bound to increase the pressure on the medical authorities. Is it conceivable that Irish women using this site can’t get extra help locally if they need it?

Meanwhile the FPA in GB are calling on abortion to be made more locally available in GP surgeries etc, in advance of the next Commons debate on the Human embryology and Abortion Bill.

The web story and ongoing advances of abortion procedure underlines Ireland’s isolation.

Let’s hope it sparks a new and civilised debate in the media from women’s point of view, not least on Slugger.

  • Kathy Lick

    Let’s hope things become more ‘progressive’ here and liberalism prevails. Everyone should be allowed to do what they want. Simple as. Anyone who disagrees with me is small minded.

    Abortion needs to be brought to ireland for women’s rights.

  • Animus

    I think the procurement of abortion pills through the internet is frankly a bit scary. It may be better than a backstreet operation, but there still seems to be considerable risk, especially if things go wrong. I hope it does cause a change in the law, but it’s a shame that it would need to be forced in this way, rather that out of compassion for women with unwanted pregnancy and a recognition that a woman’s right should supercede that of an embryo.

    Brian – any debate on abortion I’ve seen on slugger has been far from civilised, but I remain ready to be surprised.

  • Mac

    @Kathy Lick

    “Everyone should be allowed to do what they want.”

    Great idea. Let’s do away with Criminal Law entirely. Everyone can do what they want. Urinate on the street, use drugs, rape women etc. Hey, we’re liberal, let’s let things lie.

  • Kathy Lick

    That’s what happens in a secular modern vacuum. The next stage is to legislate for infanticide so that mothers can do away with unwanted children as easily as they can with unwanted pregnancy.

  • steve


    What a load of nonsense, every time some one in nIreland sugests the slightest increase in understanding and accepting other peoples needs and wants some fool shows up and starts talking about end results so unbelievably stupid as beggars belief.

    note the thread on same sex marriage and how it was going to lead to the legalisation of paedophilia and incest

    complete nonsense but par for the course for right wing demagogues

  • DC

    “Let’s do away with Criminal Law entirely. Everyone can do what they want. Urinate on the street, use drugs, rape women etc. Hey, we’re liberal, let’s let things lie.”

    Law should be built around appropriate responses to pyschological harm in this case it would seem to create more harm so it is time to reconsider.

    Those that want to keep abortion laws as is may be repulsed at the thought of change but I wonder if they will be truly psychologically harmed by the changes. People who disregard theology and much of the morals therein resort to the free market as per the website, so it is counter productive.

    Of course the anti-thesis to your liberal comic stance above is of course to talk up the conservative aspect of being tough on criminality with tough criminal justice, although the problem with that though is perception is not reality and people flout the law anyway. It is called political disconnect but sure it looks good doesn’t it.

    Bet it makes you feel better too.

  • Conquistador

    …accepting other peoples needs and wants…

    You can’t please all of the people all of the time, so accepting everybody’s needs and wants is an impossibility from the getgo.

    But to address the points you mentioned, what is wrong about 2 adults above the age of consent engaging in relations as they see appropiate? Why does it become wrong when they are a brother and sister?

    To be perfectly honest, the embryo is growing an that would imply it wants to live. By denying this fundamental want we are depraving a human life form from its right to life. This particular want seems far more significant to me than that of a gulpin who was too stupid to use a contaceptive in the first place.

  • DC

    “To be perfectly honest, the embryo is growing an that would imply it wants to live. By denying this fundamental want we are depraving a human life form from its right to life.”

    Would you carry that argument down to an 11 or 12 year old too then?

  • Rory

    Right on, Steve. If we applied the same illogical extension to Kathy Lick’s argument against abortion we could then say that the “logical” conclusion would be that she must also be opposed to anyone having their hair cut or their toe nails clipped.

    But we don’t because we like to extend to her the courtesy of pretending that she is not completely mad. Pity that she doesn’t reciprocate.

  • I’m with Animus.

    As I understand it, this medicines website is for women who live in countries where safe, SUPERVISED abortions are heavily restricted.

    So presumably the anti-abortion campaigners are being ironic when they complain that women who resort to this site are “taking abortion into the shadows”?


  • Animus

    Conquistador – not all pregnancies are caused merely by stupidity (look at the high rate of teenage pregnancy, caused by misinformation, lying, using contraception incorrectly, etc)

    Embryos want to live? Hmmm. There is a fairly high rate of miscarriage (20%?) – do these embryos *not* want to live as much as the others? What a bizarre interpretation. Depriving a human life form seems to imply that you would similarly condemn contraception at all, but not giving the little swimmers a chance. Also, I think you have made a slightly typo – there is big difference between deprave and deprive.

  • Rory

    A question to those absolutely opposed to women being allowed access to safe, medically supervised termination of pregnancy:

    In your jurisdiction where such access is (or would be forbidden) how would you propose to treat a woman who had sought out a back street abortion which was botched and put her life in imminent danger?

    Would you propose:

    (A). That she receive immediate medical treatment to save her life? (The embryo not having survived).


    (B). Refuse her medical treatment for “bringing it on herself”?

  • Dave

    I’m not getting involved in this endless debate other than to thank Steve & Rory for their hilarious reaction to Kathy Lick (someone posting obvious satire for comedic trolling purposes) – and, of course, to thank Ms Lick for the laugh.

  • Over Here

    The thing that has always confused me on this whole issue is this With the amount of contraceptive methods out there why, especially here in England, is the abortion rate so high? On average 600 abortions per day, 600, what the hell is society coming to?

    We will of course get all the usual “its a lack of education” “its about poverty”. We will get every excuse apart from taking responsibilty for your actions and if you co*k-up taking the consequences.

    For those women who are subjected to the suffering of rape I have every sympathy with but statistically how many abortions are carried out every year on victims of rape.

    Todays society = “I know my rights” responsibilities = blame everybody/anybody else

  • Leo

    Wow Rory, that’s some straw-man argument there.

    You might as well ask if a doctor could refuse to treat a drug overdose if they thought that taking drugs was wrong.

  • Leo

    Increased contraceptive cover will never result in no abortions, as no contraceptive method is 100% effective. (Except abstinence, but technically that’s not a contraceptive).

    People use a particular method assuming that they won’t get pregnant, and when they do…

  • Brian Walker

    I’d really like to know – would the women out there care to identify themselves as such? I’m assuming Kathy Lick and possibly Queen of Puddings are female but you can never be sure from a name..

    Two points about identities –
    1. Slugger seems to be very,very male dominated, even in this most female of topics; why so, how can we diversify? Tell your friends, what else?

    2. Why so many pseuedonyms? Some ancient blogging custom? It looks as if people duck being accountable for their opinions. A residue of Troubles fear in some cases? A faint echo of call signs?

    Please understand that I don’t presume to put anyone off – but isn’t it time for everyone to come out?

  • Over Here

    but isn’t it time for everyone to come out?

    What and face the wrath of Iris

  • Rory

    I’m afraid that it is most certainly not a straw man argument, Leo. That’s mainly because no argument is presented – only a choice of questions.

    Another thing – it would be perfectly valid to “ask if a doctor could refuse to treat a drug overdose if they thought that taking drugs was wrong”. It simply requires one of two perfectly valid answers. Either (i) it would be perfectly or valid (ii) it would not be perfectly valid.

    I do have an argument to make (in fact I have two) but that will depend upon the answers to my question.

  • Rory

    That should read “(i) it would be perfectly valid” not “perfectly or valid”.


  • Steve

    Brian Walker

    I use a first name pseudonym because my name was banned and I havent switched back I dont use my last name because it is decidedly unwestern archipeligo of europe ish. And I am well tired of the “youre not even Irish” arguement thrown around as I never claimed I was I just have an odd obsesion about your politics. Possibly because I used to have a friend there and partly because Canadian politics are as boring as watching paint dry

  • Animus

    I use a pseudonym because I sometimes blog from work.

    As for responsibility, having an abortion rather than raising a child one cannot afford to raise/cannot provide for is taking responsibility and facing the consequences. The recent high profile cases of child neglect, the large number of absent fathers, etc show that lack of responsibility is an issue far beyond conception. I think there is an idealogical debate about abortion, but there is also a separate issue which seems to indicate a desire to punish women for making a mistake or getting caught out. This I find quite hateful. Someone said on Good Morning Ulster this morning that if men needed to avail of abortion there would be less opposition and it does make me wonder.

  • Brian Walker

    OK, I understand the points so far made about using pseudonyms – although I still think it would good if people owned up to their own opinions as much as possible.
    but is NO ONE out there owning up to being a women, anonymously if necessary; I’m not pressing for names!

    The silence so far suggests we have a very serious female deficit.

  • Brian – I’m female, have never used a pseudonym on Slugger, but rarely participate simply because any thread I’ve ever read here that has been about ‘women’s issues’ has been completely taken over by men who are deeply misogynistic and have absolutely no intention of engaging in any real debate or of being willing to stand back and actually let women be heard.

    Several years ago I wrote an abortion article which was posted on Slugger and I received a significant amount of abuse in the comments as well as on my blog, and ‘dead baby’ pictures and threats to my personal email address. I find it to be a scarily accurate reflection of Northern Irish men in general…although it is somewhat more liberal these days.

    Thanks for this post though – at least Women on Web are an organisation I can donate to without feeling like my money will be wasted.

  • Animus

    Okay, I admit it. I’m a woman. But part of the reason I am reluctant to ‘fess up is because I have had a certain amount of bile in the past over it as well as condescending tones in many posts. The blogosphere is not gender-neutral. I think you’ll find that everywhere, not just in our little corner of the world.

    There seems to be an assumption that because contraception exists, everyone knows where to get it, how to use it, etc. It’s not true for benefits, money advice or anything else. The prudish tendency to pretend no one has sex here means that people are not very savvy about how to be careful. Look at the number of A&E;units in Northern Ireland which refuse to give the morning after pill. That’s taking responsibility and yet, refusal to give this drug means that more women may be forced to seek an abortion if they become pregnant.

  • Steve


    I know what you mean I had to hunt high and low for condoms the last time I was in nIreland. No wonder the teen pregnancy rate is so high. Here in Canada they are available at any corner store

  • The Raven


    Two things

    I can’t use my real name cos I’d get fired. Simple as. When I eventually change jobs – and I have been trying – I’ll post under my actual name.

    While I’m not female, and last time I checked, I definitely wasn’t, I have been partner/accessory to abortion. My girlfriend (at the time) got pregnant when we were in our early twenties. I won’t go into the why’s and wherefore’s, but suffice to say, contraceptives don’t always work.

    As you all know, what happened in those days – and this is only 12 years ago – there are “advisers” who arrange appointments, modes of travel, etc. We were given the phone number of a woman in Portstewart. Lots of sneaking around, pretending to be “visiting friends across the water”, praying that parents wouldn’t find out, etc. I know that my parents never said anything, but I am sure they suspected something was up.

    Anyway, I didn’t go through the operation, I was merely someone on the sidelines. But I know that we took the right decision, and also that that decision was not easy for either of us.

    Now, I don’t feel good about what we did. Nor, if I’m sure if I caught up with her, does my former partner. But while the whole thing is traumatic enough, the ignominy of going to a doctor who says “sorry, you’re going to have to travel 400 miles to get this sorted” really is medieval.

    When Church and State abdicate their responsibilities in so many other spheres of life, I find it incredible that we are still even talking about this.

  • Animus

    Steve, when we were you last in Northern Ireland? Condoms are extremely easy to find – any chemist sells them these days. And if you’re shy, any bar sells them, although it’s probably more than a normal person would want to pay. If you’re buying them in a pub, you’ll pay a premium for not being prepared.