Abortion by tablets or pills - medical abortion

Abortion pills or abortion tablets are designed to bring on an abortion for a woman who is less than nine weeks pregnant (that is less than 9 weeks since her last period). They are designed to be used in abortion clinics. In recent times, there have been a number of reports about individuals buying and using abortifacients in Ireland without medical supervision


Frequently asked questions

I took an abortion pill without medical supervision and now I have pain/ bleeding/ headaches/ fainting/ diarrhoea/ shortness of breath. What can I do?

If you have excessive bleeding (or prolonged bleeding that persists without stopping for 4 or 5 days), bad pain or other complications after taking an abortion pill, you should attend your GP, a family planning clinic, the emergency department of your local hospital, or one of the services listed here immediately. Please keep in mind that medical staff will try to help you. They may have difficulty in helping you if they do not know the content of the product you have taken. It is advisable to bring any information and packaging that comes with the pill to the hospital/GP/Family Planning clinic as it may assist the medical staff in their diagnosis and the medical care they can give.


If I attend medical services and say that I have taken an abortion pill, will they take care of me or will they inform the Gardai?

A doctor will always look after a woman in this situation. A doctor is not required to report to the Gardai that a woman has taken an abortion pill. Doctors must not breach patient confidentiality except where they deem it appropriate in limited and exceptional circumstances as provided for by the Ethical Guidelines published by the Irish Medical Council, such as (i) if the person is under 17 years of age and the doctor believes that the patient became pregnant in abusive circumstances; or (ii) if the person discloses to the doctor that they were subject to abuse during their childhood and if the doctor believes that they or anyone else is at risk of further acts of abuse; or (iii) by court order, as required by law. The doctor should inform the patient (or parents/guardians if under 17) of their intention to make the disclosure and the reasons for doing so unless doing so might endanger the patient. It is preferable but not necessary in these circumstances to obtain the patient's consent.

The Ethical Guidelines further state that a doctor may only disclose patient information with or without the agreement of the patient when it is necessary to protect the patient or others from serious risk of death or serious harm or if it is in the public interest. If they do so, they are obliged to consider whether disclosing the information to an appropriate person/body who understands that the information must be kept confidential, without revealing the identity of the patient would achieve the same potential benefits. Unless there is a particular benefit in revealing your identity, the doctor is obliged to keep the matter confidential. If the doctor decides to take any action in relation to your case, he/she is obliged to inform you that they are taking this action unless informing you would cause you serious harm.


I took an abortion pill without medical supervision and now I have a feeling that I'm still pregnant, is this possible?

Yes, it is possible that you are still pregnant. The pills may not have been "genuine" abortion pills and even "genuine" abortion pills can fail to work properly sometimes. The pills also will not cause abortion of a pregnancy located in the tube (ectopic pregnancy). The pills may not work if you are more than nine week's pregnant or pregnant with twins. However, even if the pills have worked and brought on an abortion, it may take a number of days before a pregnancy test produces a negative result. If you are concerned, it is advisable to attend your GP or one of the services listed here for a free post-abortion medical check-up.


I took an abortion pill without medical supervision. Can I get post-abortion counselling?

Yes, post-abortion counselling is available free of charge to any woman in Ireland who has an abortion. If you took an abortion pill, counselling services do not record this information in their patient records. For a list of post-abortion counselling services that are free of charge, please click here.