Now Online: the Stay-at-Home Abortion

Rebecca Gomperts is among activists who sell abortion drugs online

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 1, 2014 5:10 PM CDT

(Newser) – With millions of women worldwide lacking access to abortion clinics, some activists are considering a new approach: the stay-at-home abortion. Leading the charge is Dutch physician Rebecca Gomperts, whose website Women on Web receives about 2,000 requests monthly for drugs that will induce miscarriages, the New York Times Magazine reports. Via a supplier in India, Gomperts has the drugs mifepristone (or RU-486) and misoprostol sent to women who are less than nine weeks pregnant in countries lacking safe abortion services. The women are asked to pay about $90 if they can. Gomperts' philosophy is about "reduction of suffering," she says, in a world where the World Health Organization estimates that 47,000 women died from unsafe abortions in 2008. (She made her name by taking an "abortion ship" to Ireland to skirt Irish abortion laws.)

But Gomperts has problems: Since last year, when the US began investigating Indian companies' delivery of generic drugs, her tracking numbers have been getting lost in the mail. And some countries will hold up the shipments at customs. "The anxiety level of the women goes up," says her Indian supplier. "It's painful." And Gomperts refuses to ship to the US, where abortion is legal, even though some states (like Texas) are cracking down on access to abortion clinics. Meanwhile, activists in Texas are advising women on how to use abortion drugs at home, or training "abortion doulas" to help women through the experience of taking mifepristone and misoprostol. How bad is that experience? It can be painful and has a death rate of 0.5 out of 100,000, most studies show, but Lydia Kae writes at Daily Life that she only had mild cramps, bleeding, and morning sickness. "Although I hope I never have to, if I found myself unexpectedly pregnant again, I would choose another medical abortion," she writes. (Read about a woman denied an abortion who was forced to give birth at 25 weeks.)

Anti-abortion protesters mob Rebecca Gomperts, center, the Dutch founder of Women on Waves, an abortion advocacy group, on Oct. 4, 2012, in the port of Smir, Morocco.
Anti-abortion protesters mob Rebecca Gomperts, center, the Dutch founder of Women on Waves, an abortion advocacy group, on Oct. 4, 2012, in the port of Smir, Morocco.   (AP/Paul Schemm)
An image of pills from the Women on Web website.
An image of pills from the Women on Web website.   (Women on the Web)
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