The BBC is reporting that a website called Women On Web is making abortion-inducing drugs just a mouse-click away. In a British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology survey of 200 women who used the site to order aborificients, 11% went on to need a surgical procedure — either because the drugs didn't complete the abortion or because of excessive bleeding. Why didn't the women seek medical help in the first place? Shouldn't a woman undergo something as (possibly) traumatic to the body (and psyche) as an abortion with the aid of a medical professional? Probably. But the women who use Women On Web live in Northern Ireland, Thailand, or one of 70 other countries where a safe, supervised abortion is restricted.
The good news is that most of the women questioned said that they were grateful to be able to "order" an abortion online. And, as Angela Phillips of the Guardian points out, no abortion method is 100% safe. Women On Web will only mail the drugs to countries where abortion is restricted. Customers must answer 25 questions before they're allowed to purchase the drugs, and women are advised to have a pregnancy test and an ultrasound if possible. An American woman with a rare medical condition that makes pregnancy life-threatening used the service while in Thailand. "Women on Web kept in contact with me via e-mail. The medication arrived through Customs, properly blister-packed, with complete paperwork and a doctor's signature," she says. Audrey Simpson, director of The Family Planning Association in Northern Ireland, tells the BBC the website was "helpful and reputable." But she notes: "For Northern Ireland women, it is encouraging them to break the law - and as an organisation, we have to work within the law." Josephine Quintavalle, spokesperson for the anti-abortion group Comment on Reproductive Ethics says online abortions trivialize the value of the unborn child. Angela Phillips' take on that?
Is it ethical for any government to deny women access to a safe back-up arrangement when accidents happen? Forcing a woman to have a baby she doesn't want is not moral or ethical. It's not moral or ethical to bring babies in the world who are not wanted and may not be loved.
One one hand, isn't an abortion is something that needs to be done in the safest way possible? Would you feel comfortable putting your trust in drugs you received in the mail? On the other hand, as we've previously discussed, a coat hanger is much more dangerous, and it's not a myth. Seventy thousand women die each year - one every seven minutes - from botched abortions. So when the Telegraph runs a headline like, "Women Risk Health By Using Abortion Websites," couldn't the argument be made that they also risk their health by not using Women On Web?