It Happened To Me: I Took Abortion Pills

As we wait for a decision to be made on the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, Paula Lyne talks to one Irish woman who bought abortion pills online.

The Republic of Ireland’s Repeal The Eighth campaign is steadily growing momentum, but thanks to miles of red tape and the wait for recommendations from the Citizens Assembly, it will likely be 2018 before a referendum can be called. That’s at least twelve months, during which time close to 3,500 women will travel to the UK and elsewhere to obtain abortions, and thousands more will resort to using abortion pills.

THE LAW

Legal: You can obtain information about abortion services and you can arrange an abortion aboard.

Illegal: To have an abortion in the State and to buy abortion pills on or to obtain them by any other means.  

“There is always a risk when you’re using a drug that’s not licensed in this country or when the advice of a doctor is not legally available,” says Dr Peadar O’Grady of Doctors For Choice. “The two drugs used in abortion pills are safe when taken under medical guidance, but preventing women from accessing that advice both before and after taking the pills is an irresponsible move by our government.”

If a woman does require medical help after taking the pills, she could technically face a criminal charge if she tells a doctor of her situation. “Women are then left in a position where they have to lie and say they’ve suffered a non-induced miscarriage in order to protect themselves and the doctor,” he explains.

Despite the obstacles, an estimated 5,600 women in Ireland opted to order abortion pills online over a five-year period since 2010. Here, Fiona shares her story.

“I’ve had two abortions using pills ordered online. Both times I was in a relationship, and the condoms failed to work. At that stage I’d come off the contraceptive Pill because it had been making me feel very depressed, and I knew it wasn’t a suitable option for me any more. I couldn’t afford the morning-after pill, so essentially we had no back-up protection.

“Travelling to the UK for an abortion was in the back of my head, but I was living at home, working part-time, and financially wasn’t very well off. Going to England just wasn’t something I could afford. Some friends of mine told me about medical abortion pills, and when I looked them up I realised they were more common than I thought. By necessity the pills were my first choice because of time and expense, but once I read up on them I felt less scared.

“I did speak to a few people about what I was planning to do – my partner and a few friends – but all in all my abortion experience was too lonely and scary for me to want to talk about it openly. The government knows the stats already of how many Irish women access abortion every year, so I shouldn’t have to emphasise it again to them. I didn’t tell my family at the time, for fear they’d stop me, and it’s still too much to tell them right now. I know they’d be upset that they didn’t know and that they couldn’t help me.

“The first time I took the pills, I was at home alone, and on the second occasion I’d my partner with me. There was bleeding and pain, but nothing different to a bad period, and all in all it lasted around ten hours, which I mainly spent in bed in my pyjamas watching films.

“Once it was over I was relieved, but also so angry at what my government had forced me into. There’s a lot that needs to change here. If basic contraception like the morning-after pill was easier to access affordably, for example, I don’t think I’d have become pregnant.

“The biggest anxiety I felt during the whole experience was waiting for the pills to arrive, and then wondering if they’d work. I didn’t even care if I was arrested, my main worry was that I’d end up having a baby that I couldn’t support. The sadness in that was too much.”

*Name has been changed

This article first appeared in STELLAR’s January/February 2017 issue. Our March issue is on shelves now! 

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