Irish and Northern Irish Women’s Experiences with AtHome Medical Abortion Using Online Telemedicine
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Abortion laws in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland are among the most restrictive across the globe. Abortion is illegal except to save a woman’s life, or in Northern Ireland only, to preserve her permanent physical or mental health. But even these provisions have a murky legal interpretation. Doctors in both countries, fearing prosecution, rarely perform abortions. Women also face criminal prosecution for attempting their own abortion or for helping others. In Northern Ireland, the maximum sentence is life imprisonment, the harshest criminal penalty in Europe. The criminal penalty for having an abortion outside of the law in Ireland is 14 years in prison. For decades, Irish and Northern Irish women have traveled abroad to access abortion services. But more recently, women in Ireland and Northern Ireland have had another option: medical abortion they can perform at home using pills provided by online telemedicine services. Researchers from The University of Texas at Austin and Princeton University analyzed six years of data from Irish and Northern Irish women who requested and accessed abortion pills using the online telemedicine service Women on Web (WoW). The aim of the study was to learn about who requests and accesses abortion using online services and their experiences both with their unwanted pregnancies and their abortions.