Abortion pills still illegally imported despite change in law
Women are continuing to import abortion pills illegally through the internet despite the change in legislation since January allowing free terminations up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.
There were nine seizures of 104 of these medicines between January and April, according to figures obtained from the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA).
The trend in buying these medicines over the internet, however, is down compared to the same period last year, when women who sought a medical abortion had to go to a UK clinic.
The HPRA said that between January and April last year there were 14 seizures of 204 tablets.
The tablets include misoprostol and mifepristone, which should only be taken under medical supervision.
Doctors say there is likely to be always some level of importation of the pills as women seek privacy.
It is believed around 800-900 abortions a month are being carried out since the change in the law. Around 320 GPs are now signed up to provide medical abortions, but there are still no doctors willing to deliver the service in Co Sligo, Leitrim and Carlow.
Alison Begas, chief executive of the Dublin Well Woman Centre, said she is seriously concerned about the various difficulties which have resulted from the three-day mandatory waiting period between the first and second visits for an medical abortion.
"Numerous organisations raised this as a concern during the drafting of the legislation and unfortunately these concerns have come to pass," she said.
"There is an understandable lack of awareness that a pregnancy is dated from the start of the last menstrual period, while conception usually takes place about two weeks after, meaning that those in a crisis pregnancy are often further along than they had realised when they start looking to access services.
"In such circumstances, the three-day waiting period can be the difference between receiving compassionate healthcare at home or having to make the lonely, unsupported journey abroad.
"Added to that, there is no medical reason for this waiting period and so this is causing unnecessary disruption and stress to people who are already extremely distressed."
She also criticised the "lack of urgency regarding the introduction of exclusion zones - safe zones for people accessing abortion services at GP offices or hospitals - which should have been implemented in tandem with the legislation".
This is crucial for women as well as the safety and wellbeing of clinic staff, she said.