How can a state control swallowing? The home use of abortion pills in Ireland

Reprod Health Matters. 2016 Nov;24(48):90-101. doi: 10.1016/j.rhm.2016.10.002. Epub 2016 Nov 26.


Evidence suggests that there is widespread home use of abortion pills in Ireland and that ending a pregnancy in this way is potentially safer than the alternatives available to many women. This paper argues that there is a strong case for women with unwanted pregnancies to be offered truthful and objective information regarding the use of abortion pills by trusted local professionals and, further, that this is possible within existing law. A move in this direction would not, however, negate the need for legal reform to address the fundamental moral incoherence of a law that treats women who terminate pregnancies within Ireland as criminals but those who travel to access services overseas as victims in need of support. In support of these arguments, the paper draws on both library research and a small number of interviews with government officials, service providers and activists.

Keywords: Ireland; abortion pills; criminal law; medical abortion; telemedicine.

MeSH terms

  • Abortifacient Agents, Steroidal / administration & dosage
  • Abortion, Criminal* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Abortion, Criminal* / psychology
  • Abortion, Induced* / ethics
  • Abortion, Induced* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Abortion, Induced* / methods
  • Administration, Oral
  • Contraception, Postcoital* / ethics
  • Contraception, Postcoital* / methods
  • Deglutition
  • Ethics, Medical
  • Female
  • Housing
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Ireland
  • Mifepristone / administration & dosage
  • Politics
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Unwanted
  • Religion and Medicine
  • Telemedicine


  • Abortifacient Agents, Steroidal
  • Mifepristone