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Abortion pills

What are they?
Pregnancy can be terminated by chemical means. The process involves taking two types of medication. The first is a synthetic steroid called mifepristone, which works by stopping the action of progesterone – a hormone that makes the lining of the womb an environment that can support a fertilised egg. The second is either swallowed as a pill or placed in the vagina 36 to 48 hours later and contains prostaglandin, which causes cramps and bleeding that trigger the loss of the pregnancy.
How long does it take to work?
Four to six hours after the second medication is administered.
When can it be used?
The NHS advises that medical abortion can be used up to nine weeks into the pregnancy.

Associated Groups


  • Sept.28.2018: Funding threat to agencies that withhold abortion advice. Catholic crisis pregnancy agencies that refuse to give information on abortion are at risk of losing state funding, health minister Simon Harris has said. In February The Times revealed that almost half of the state funding for crisis pregnancy services in 2015 went to agencies that will not give advice on abortion to women who are looking for help. The agencies included Anew, which was awarded €476,908, and Cura, which was given €804,048. Funding to those two agencies was 48 per cent of the total €2.6 million grants allocated for crisis pregnancy and post-abortion counselling in 2015. Cura, which was run by the Irish Catholic Bishops, has since announced that it is closing down. Ellen Coyne, The Times.
  • Jul.30.2018: This ultra-conservative institute has infiltrated the Polish state, on a relentless quest to ban abortion. Ordo luris is an extreme anti-choice group whose founders were ‘inspired’ by a controversial Catholic fundamentalist network. How has it gained so much political power? There are signs that the group plans to lobby internationally too, at the United Nations. Its allies include the global branch of a US ‘Christian legal army.’ “Ordo luris is a group of well-educated but conservative lawyers,” said Polish women’s rights activist Katarzyna Ueberhan, “trying to influence the current, conservative government… [with] a sort of ‘moral blackmail.’” Tymoteusz Zych is one of several Ordo luris board members that have also received significant political appointments. He was appointed in January to a new, state body overseeing support for civil society groups. Previously, in 2015 Aleksander Stępkowski was appointed as an under-secretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For three months, he was simultaneously president of Ordo Iuris’s board. Jerzy Kwaśniewski, the current board president, is on the government’s Monitoring Team for Prevention of Domestic Violence. He previously claimed that punishing women for having abortions is a “global standard.” Ordo Iuris was established in 2013 by the Father Piotr Skarga Foundation which provided it with initial funding . This foundation was in turn established by the Father Piotr Skarga Association for Christian Culture. Ordo Iuris is also an allied organisation of ADF International, the global arm of the US ‘Christian legal army,’ Alliance Defending Freedom, which supports opponents of sexual and reproductive rights around the world. Lidia Kurasinska, openDemocracy.
  • Jun.03.2018: Pro-life TDs seek disability clause in abortion bill. Independent and Fianna Fail TDs say they will support moves by pro-life campaigners to insert a “disability amendment” into the forthcoming abortion legislation to stop terminations when conditions such as Down’s syndrome have been diagnosed. The Save the 8th campaign group is to lobby TDs to secure “a number of simple amendments” to the draft legislation published by government either when it goes to committee stage in July or comes back to the Dail for report stage in September. Mattie McGrath and Michael Collins of the Rural Independent Group (RIG) yesterday confirmed they were ready to table amendments excluding disability as grounds for a termination. It was not clear at which stage of pregnancy it would apply. Simon Harris, the health minister, is not expected to accept any such amendment. Officials do not think disability needs to be addressed in the bill, as the amendment would cut across the concept of allowing abortion “without specific indication” in the first 12 weeks, seen as vital to accommodating the needs of rape victims. Stephen O\Brien, The Times.
  • Jun.07.2018: Ban on anti-abortion protests at London clinic disproportionate, court hears/ Council accused of infringing freedom of speech with ban at Marie Stopes clinic in Ealing. Anti-abortion group Good Counsel Network seeking to overturn the UK’s only exclusion zone around a Marie Stopes clinic, in Ealing, west London, have told judges they believe the council’s actions amounted to an illegal discrimination against their right to free speech and peaceful protest. Ealing is the first place in the UK to introduce an exclusion zone around its abortion clinic. Introduced in April, it is designed to prevent all protests following complaints that there had been harassment and intimidation of women visiting the service. Dan Sabbagh, The Guardian.
  • Jun.02.2018: Abortion: US activist Brandi Swindell takes her message overseas. Brandi Swindell launched her first Stanton Healthcare clinic in 2006 in a building provided by her local church. Born in Boise, Idaho, Ms Swindell, 41, has always considered herself anti-abortion. She has worked with the Rock for Life music ministry, the Christian Defense Coalition and in Ireland with Youth Defence. In 1999 she also co-founded Generation Life, a movement aiming to put a stop to abortion by spreading the message to young people. Stanton Healthcare has centres in six locations in the US and Ms Swindell, its chief executive, travelled from Idaho to the launch of its Belfast clinic, the first outside America, in October 2015. She was pictured at the Belfast clinic’s opening alongside Bernadette Smyth, director of the anti-abortion organisation Precious Life. It is working closely with the US group. In 2014 Ms Smyth was sentenced to a restraining order and 100 hours’ community service for harassing Dawn Purvis, the former head of the Marie Stopes clinic. The conviction was overturned on appeal because of insufficient evidence. Isabel van Brugen, The Times.
  • Jun.02.2018: Anti-abortion centre Stanton Healthcare peddling false cancer claims to women. A pregnancy centre set up by American anti-abortion activists in Northern Ireland falsely tells women that termination causes breast cancer and infertility, an undercover investigation has found. A counsellor at the Belfast clinic of Stanton Healthcare was secretly recorded telling an undercover reporter that she was “too beautiful for abortion” and that a termination would make her breasts “fill with cancer”. Stanton Healthcare, set up by Brandi Swindell, a US Christian activist, opened a Belfast branch in 2015 in partnership with Precious Life, an anti-abortion group. It describes itself as providing “up-to-date, medically accurate information” to pregnant women. Precious Life campaigners protest regularly outside a Family Planning Association counselling service across the road from Stanton’s Belfast office. A reporter was handed leaflets claiming that abortion could lead to death, a perforated womb, infections and suicide. ... Isabel van Brugen, The Times.
  • May.27.2018: Leading Tory women revolt against Theresa May over Northern Ireland abortion laws. Theresa May is facing open revolt from senior Tory women over abortion after Ireland’s historic vote to lift a ban on terminations. Penny Mordaunt, the women and equalities minister, and her 4 predecessors urged the prime minister to allow a free vote in parliament to reform Northern Ireland’s draconian abortion laws. Downing Street fears that could destabilise the govt by antagonising the socially conservative Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which May depends on for a Commons majority. Arlene Foster, DUP leader, said the referendum would have no impact on the law in Northern Ireland. Mordaunt has the backing of her four predecessors in the job — Amber Rudd, Justine Greening, Nicky Morgan and Maria Miller. A source said: “Penny feels very strongly about this. She has campaigned to enable women to access services free of charge in the rest of the UK. She will be doing all she can to support these agendas.” Education minister Anne Milton suggested she would back liberalisation if there was a free vote. Sarah Wollaston, the Tory chairwoman of the commons health select committee, said: “I would vote to support an extension of abortion rights to all women across the whole UK. Northern Ireland has some of the toughest abortion laws in the western world with even rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality not considered legal grounds for a termination. Every day 3 women travel from Northern Ireland to England for abortion care or resort to illegal online medication, risking life imprisonment. Justine Greening pushed through reforms last year so that women from Northern Ireland can get abortions for free in England, The United Nations has said this violates their human rights. Karen Bradley, the Northern Ireland secretary, has insisted abortion law is a “devolved matter” and ruled out a free vote. But sources said that she, too, is privately supportive of a change in the law. More than 130 MPs are prepared to back an amendment to the new domestic violence bill to allow abortions in Northern Ireland, co-ordinated by Stella Creasy, Labour MP for Walthamstow. Moves to liberalise abortion law may spark a backlash from Tory traditionalists such as Jacob Rees-Mogg. Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Fein’s vice-president, said she would like the decision to be made in Northern Ireland, but in the absence of a Stormont executive “we have to find a way to deliver rights”. Tim Shipman, The Times. See also MPs call for Theresa May to permit poll on abortion in Northern Ireland
  • Mar.21.2018: Bill to give medical staff right to refuse role in abortions condemned. Bill would expand rights of conscientious objection for healthcare professionals. Tim Wyatt, The Guardian.
  • Mar.08.2018: Ireland’s abortion battle shows we must never let the fundamentalists win. Women have paid a terrible price for a law that gives the unborn the same rights as mothers. (Referendum wrt repealing the 1983 8th Amendment to the Constitution: "The state acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.") The Guardian, Suzanne Moore
  • Feb.23.2018: Northern Irish abortion law violates women's rights, say UN officials. The UK is violating the rights of women in Northern Ireland by restricting their access to abortion, exposing them to "horrific situations", a UN committee has said. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw) said thousands of women and girls in Northern Ireland faced "systematic violations of rights through being compelled to either travel outside Northern Ireland to procure a legal abortion or to carry their pregnancy to term". Officials from the committee conducted a confidential inquiry in Northern Ireland in 2016 and concluded that "the situation in Northern Ireland constitutes violence against women that may amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment", according to the Cedaw vice-chair Ruth Halperin-Kaddari. The 1967 Abortion Act was never extended to Northern Ireland, and abortion remains illegal in all but the most extreme circumstances. Northern Ireland has the harshest criminal penalty for abortion anywhere in Europe; in theory life imprisonment can be handed down to a woman undergoing an unlawful abortion. The Guardian, Amelia Gentleman
  • Feb.23.2018: Scottish Labour MSP withdraws invitation to US academic. Prof Priscilla Coleman authored highly criticised study into link between abortion and anxiety. Elaine Smith, Scottish Labour's spokesperson on poverty and inequality, invited US professor Priscilla Coleman to speak to a meeting entitled "Abortion in Scotland: a solution or a problem?" The event, which included Clare Bremner, a counsellor with the Glasgow-based Abortion Recovery Care and Helpline (Arch), which is based at the Glasgow offices of the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (Spuc). In her emailed invitation, Smith describes Coleman as “an academic psychologist [who] has published extensively on the psychological effects of abortion”. She does not refer to the fact that other researchers have consistently cast doubt on Coleman’s findings. The Guardian, Libby Brooks
  • Jan.27.2018: Leo Varadkar to campaign to liberalise Irish abortion laws. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says he hopes to set date next week for referendum on repeal of 8th amendment. The Guardian, Henry McDonald
  • Jan.18.2018: Down's syndrome test could see condition disappear, C of E warns. Church says new NHS test could lead to more terminations and fewer people born with condition. The Guardian, Harriet Sherwood
  • Apr.18.2016: Northern Irish women on abortion: 'people feel they can't trust anyone'. A clash between Northern Ireland’s Victorian-era abortion legislation and the availability of safe and cheap tablets online has once again put the country’s conservative attitude towards the issue under the spotlight. On Monday a 21-year-old woman was given a three-month jail sentence, suspended for 12 months, after pleading guilty at Belfast crown court to procuring her own abortion by using a poison, in the first known abortion pill-related prosecution in Northern Ireland. The court case is hugely significant because self-administered abortions using pills – often procured over the internet – have rapidly become the cheapest, most accessible solution for women in Northern Ireland, where abortion remains illegal in all but the most extreme circumstances. "How many women were disgusted by [Donald] Trump's comments about how women seeking abortions should be punished? Well this is actually happening right now in Northern Ireland," the Alliance for Choice pro-choice organisation said. Protesters were urged to write to the Northern Ireland secretary, Theresa Villiers, asking her to "break the radio silence from Westminster". Because she did not have the money to travel, she went online and bought mifepristone and misoprostol pills, which are considered safe and reliable in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, and cost no more than £100 if supplied through a Dutch charity such as Women on Web or Women Help Women. Mara Clarke, who runs the Abortion Support Network, a charity that provides advice and financial support for women in Northern Ireland who need to travel to the UK for a termination, said the numbers travelling to England had fallen in recent years because of the easy availability of these tablets. The Guardian, Amelia Gentleman
  • Mar.2016: "How Can a State Control Swallowing?" Medical Abortion and the Law. Kent Law School, University of Kent, Professor Sally Sheldon