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Abortion activists launch website "helping" women do DIY abortions

27 April 2017


Research suggests that some US women are attempting to self-induce abortion using pills obtained online. Image: Fatima Faizi for the Guardian

A group of international abortion activists have launched a new website portal giving information to American women on how to self-induce abortions using drugs they have obtained illegally. 

The Self-managed Abortion, Safe and Supported, or SASS, project is run by Women Help Women, a three-year-old organisation headquartered in the Netherlands, and allows women in the United States to log onto the website and send a secure message to a counsellor based overseas. The counsellor then walks the woman through the process of using misoprostol, an abortion inducing drug, for a DIY abortion. 

Using illegal pills

In the US, it is illegal to administer misoprostol outside of certain medical clinics. The US Food and Drug administration, which approved the drug for use, says that it must be used under the supervision of a healthcare worker, and strictly warns against buying it online. However, it can be purchased over the counter in many Central American countries, and it is possible to obtain it online in America.

It is unclear how legal the project is, but Women Help Women are clearly trying to minimise the risk of prosecution;  the portal is designed to delete conversations between clients and counsellors after seven days. Its servers are located abroad – out of easy reach for US prosecutors – as are all 23 of its counsellors.

Pretend it's a miscarriage if something goes wrong

According to the Washington Post, women who experience complications will be told to seek immediate medical care and advised to keep in mind that medication abortions take place in a virtually identical manner to spontaneous miscarriages. They also will be told that there is no blood or urine test that can detect the drugs in their system.

Deadly drugs

As even the Guardian admits, there are medical risks in self-administering an abortion drug without the involvement of medical professionals. An ultrasound is often necessary to confirm a pregnancy and assess how many weeks a woman has been pregnant. Medical professionals also inform women about how to recognise complications, like excessive bleeding, that could occur after they leave the clinic and require medical attention. And using the drug improperly – say, at a high dose in the second trimester – can lead to serious medical complications. That's without taking into account the severe psychological trauma that can result from medical abortion

"These drugs are dangerous. They are deadly. If they are mishandled, they result in serious injury," said Kristi Hamrick, spokeswoman for Americans United for Life.

 
Watch Dr Levatino explain the dangers of medical abortion to the Citizens' Assembly.

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