The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) has published a series of online videos explaining how to use abortion pills at home in pregnancies up to 13 weeks gestation. These videos were created by the NGO Doctors Without Borders and by in 2021.

IPPF is a global non-governmental organization whose general objectives are the promotion of sexual and reproductive health, as well as the defense of access to induced abortion and free access to contraceptive methods as means of family planning.

Uncontrolled dose

The mentioned videos are freely accessible, for any age, even in those countries where abortion is illegal. The online course presents 8 lessons divided into videos of approximately 3 minutes that explain how to know that you are pregnant and calculate the week of gestation, how the abortion pills (mifepristone and misoprostol) work in the body, how to take them, what symptoms you may notice during the abortion and how to know if it has been carried out, among other aspects.

As a justification for the dissemination of these videos, the creators of the content have affirmed that this is how people’s autonomy is defended and that they are also helped to make decisions for their own care.

On the one hand, the video explains that, if there were any complications in the abortion at home and it was necessary to go to the hospital, “you would not need to say that you used medication if you do not want to. You may say that you are having a miscarriage. When misoprostol is taken under the tongue or through the mouth, it cannot be detected in the blood or in any other part of the body”, as stated verbatim in one of the videos. It is also indicated that “if you are not sure that the abortion has worked, put 4 more pills of misoprostol under the tongue.”

On the website of Doctors Without Borders, where the videos are presented, it is stated that “a self-managed abortion can be just as safe and effective as the more traditional, facility-based approach.” “It is inexpensive, easy to use, and so reliable that most people can take the pills at home without any problem.”

However, in the footnote, the organization states that “disclaims any and all liability to any party for any direct, indirect, implied, punitive, special, incidental or other consequential damages arising directly or indirectly from any use of the materials shared, which is provided as is, and without warranties.”

Without medical prescription

In relation to the topic discussed, Joe Biden, President of the United States, has modified the conditions of access to the abortion pill, suppressing the need to present a medical prescription.

Dr. Donna Harrison, a pioneer obstetrician and gynecologist in the area of research on mifepristone-related maternal mortality, has expressed her position against this measure.

She states that the abortion pill blocks the hormone that allows a woman’s body to continue a pregnancy. “The hormone has effects all over a woman’s body, her brain, her breasts, and we have no idea of the long-term consequences of this powerful anti-hormone, especially in teenagers, where it’s never been tested.”

She explained the abortion pill is two medications. The first, mifepristone, stops the pregnancy from being viable, and the second, misoprostol, causes a woman’s womb to contract and the pregnancy to end. “Use of this drug has been associated with massive hemorrhage,” she said.

Harrison expressed her concern for those people who are “so blindly committed to abortion” they simply “refuse to look at the actual effects of this drug.”

Bioethical assessment

The use of mifepristone and misoprostol as abortifacient drugs entails numerous associated risks, some of which are serious and require hospital admission with some frequency.

Promoting the uncontrolled use of these drugs without medical or pharmaceutical supervision, abandoning women to risky practices that can seriously harm their health, is exactly the opposite of what the IPPF announces when it literally states that “contraception is a matter of health and it is our right”.

Abortion can never be considered as healthcare. Of course it is not for the life of the embryo with which it ends, but neither is it for the pregnant woman, in whom the side effects after an abortion have been well described.

In addition, the fact that IPPF encourages women to lie when they go to a hospital with complications after taking abortifacient drugs, constitutes an intolerable attack against the autonomy of women and respect for their dignity.

The proposed use of these drugs that is explained in the mentioned videos can be considered criminal conduct because it promotes uncontrolled dose escalation in the event that it does not work on the first try. The consequences associated with the use of abortion drugs are many and serious, contrary to what the International Planned Parenthood Federation states. This offers a false sense of security that can induce women to engage in unacceptable risky practices.

Julio Tudela and Paloma Aznar

Bioethics Observatory – Institute of Life Sciences

Catholic University of Valencia


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