Our bodies are our own. And yet when a woman wishes to end a pregnancy, this basic law of civilized society that we teach to infants, is suspended. Her body becomes subject to someone else's control.
As soon as she misses a period, she loses the right to make decisions about that body. If she is in England, Wales or Scotland - she must ask a doctor to make that decision for her - and they in turn must find another doctor who agrees to provide the treatment to end her pregnancy. However early in pregnancy it is, however straightforward that treatment, it can only lawfully be performed in a specialist clinic or hospital.
From the moment a line shows positive on a pregnancy test, she loses control of her choice and her future. The medicines she needs can only be authorized if 2 doctors decide her reasons are good enough. That's what the abortion laws mean in Britain, as stipulated in the 1967 Abortion Act
The Act never extended to Northern Ireland, so here women are denied even this access. In Ireland, abortion is all but outlawed. For decades, women have travelled to get help in clinics in England - and thousands still do. This is the way in which women have traditionally circumvented their laws, at huge personal and emotional cost.
But the tide is turning against those politicians who want to control women's bodies. The arrival of medication which means a woman can safely end her pregnancy with pills and the advent of the internet have been harnessed by a generation of women's health activists determined to get these pills into the hands of the women who need them. The abortion pills that are safely used throughout the world wherever abortion is legal, are increasing available on-line, directly to women, wherever it is not.
And so in Ireland, Northern Ireland, and the Isle of Man, women who would have 'made the journey' to receive abortion care, can now get the same pills that are provided by British hospitals and clinics from not-for-profit online organisations Women Help Women (WHW) or Women on Web (WOW).
It's hardly surprising that an increasing number are making this choice, although it's also not ideal to have to order your pills furtively, anxiously wait for their arrival, and administer them alone. While complications are rare - women in this situation may be less likely to see help when they need it.
In Britain, women using abortion pills know they can get help from their provider. Once your abortion has been 'approved' the service is official, above board and strictly regulated. If you come to bpas, you can phone a helpline to discuss symptoms, concerns and seek reassurance. You can find out what's normal and what's not - and since we all respond to medication differently, that helpful.
Women in Northern Ireland, Ireland and the Isle of man deserve no different. We may not be able to lawfully provide their pills - but we can quite lawfully provide the aftercare. And so we will. Our free aftercare helpline has been set up this week to do what the authorities won't. Help women who have made the choice to not be pregnant.
We believe it's right for women to make their own life choices. It's a travesty of justice and a moral abhorrence to impose pregnancy on a woman against her will. And when women defy a wrong law to make the choice that is right for them we think they deserve what small support we can give.
Our helpline is about making a safe choice even safer. As with all our abortion services, we hope you won't need us. But we're here when you do.
To make a donation to support the helpline, click here.
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