“Abortion drone” promises hysteria, not health

Perhaps the most outlandish part of the latest publicity stunt by the abortion lobby group Women On Waves is that we are expected to give it any place in the debate on abortion whatsoever. After all, let’s bear in mind what’s proposed here: dropping abortion pills from a drone operated by remote control. It sounds like something that MacGyver would come up with on a bad day, but in the history of this particular group, it’s not that surprising that they place hysteria above health.

This is not the first time that we’ve had to listen to how Dr. Rebecca Gomperts’ group thinks the abortion issue should be treated in Ireland. Back in 2001, the group set sail from the Netherlands on an abortion ship, promising to carry out abortions on any Irish women who would have them. The fact that they forgot to obtain the necessary medical licences should tell us something about whether their intention was to actually carry out the procedures, or simply draw the attention of the media. But that remains a secondary point to the far more serious question of why the group thought it would be safe or advisable to bring women out into international waters for a medical procedure which can so often be detrimental to her physical health.

At the time, no members of Women On Waves wanted to address this disregard for the health and safety of women, never mind the fact that many women suffer extreme sadness and regret following their abortions. They didn’t want to talk about the humanity of the unborn child either. Or the extreme human rights abuses wrought by abortion in other countries. In fact, they didn’t want to talk at all, just point the finger at Ireland and avoid any other aspect of the debate.

After a day or two of posturing for the media, the group packed up its ship and went home. This latest outing is yet another attempt to inject hysteria into the Irish debate. It shouldn’t be entertained. What all commentators have said in Ireland is that we need a calm and reasonable debate on what is a very sensitive and complex issue. The arrival of a remote-controlled drone dropping drugs is hardly going to achieve that.

For a group that claims to want to help women, scant regard is shown for their health or peace of mind. The Women on Waves website hosts an online “consultation” where women can answer a series of questions before slotting in details of their address and donation being offered. It’s surprising that any group claiming to care for women’s health would consider this to be an adequate way of ensuring their wellbeing. After all, there is no way to know whether the answers provided are a true reflection of the woman’s medical condition – a fact surely shown by the lengthy legal disclaimer that the woman must sign before the pills are dispatched.

An online consultation like this is no way to treat women in vulnerable situations. That doesn’t mean that providing abortions in clinics in this country is any kind of solution either. As we’ve seen recently, abortion can have tragic consequences for women as well as their unborn babies – yet another aspect that Women On Waves aren’t prepared to discuss.

Quite apart from the abortion issue at all, what responsible group thinks it’s safe to drop drugs from a remote-controlled device? It’s notable that the organisers don’t seem to care for comments by the Health Products Regulatory Authority in Ireland, whose spokeperson told the Irish Independent that the “mail order supply of prescription medicines is prohibited. This applies regardless of the nature of the medicine concerned.” That prohibition is presumably in place for a good reason, most likely linked to the fact that it’s not a safe idea to allow people to order drugs online with little or no guidance from a doctor.

There doesn’t seem to be much that this group has to learn about how to grab the media spotlight. Trying to railroad over the existing laws in Ireland through stunts like this will always ensure a certain amount of publicity, but when it comes to providing any sort of calm space where the real needs of women and their babies can be addressed, Women On Waves are still floating very wide of the mark.

  • Tiana Sakr

    Well said Cora! These stunts are all about publicity and to inform women about their website. A website which, as you said, shows disregard for the personal needs of pregnant women and for the serious consequences an abortion may have on their physical or mental health.