I ordered abortion pills online - here's how I got on
It's easy to think of abortion as an issue we export to the UK and Europe.
But the fact is, a number of Irish girls and women each year have abortions at home, many of them on their own and most likely without any proper medical care during or after.
Official figures are hard to come by but a 2017 study found that 5,650 women in Ireland, both north and south of the border, ordered abortion tablets from a single online provider between 1 January 2010 and 31 December 2015.
With that in mind, I wanted to find out how people in Ireland manage to get a hold of the tablets used to perform a medical termination on themselves.
For the record, I was not pregnant.
I did some research online. That led me to one particular website, which provides this medication to women all over the world.
What surprised me most was how easy it was to get the tablets. I filled out a questionnaire on the website which felt pretty thorough but only took 10 minutes or so.
The first thing I had to do is figure out how far along I was. Using a date I had made up for my 'last period', I worked that out and then was asked how had I confirmed my pregnancy. I was also asked whether the pills were for me and if I had made the decision to terminate myself or if it had been someone else's decision.
I was also asked why I had decided to end the pregnancy and given a range of options for my answer (see the screen grab below).
The questionnaire also asked about my medical history. It would have been easy for me to lie here and I imagine that were someone desperate enough, they would.
With the questionnaire completed, I was asked to contribute a donation to the organisation. There was a suggested amount so I made a donation via card. It was significantly less costly than travelling for a termination would be.
A few hours later, I got an email to ask whether I could donate any more to ensure that the service can help as many women as possible. I replied saying that I'd given all I could and the next day received an email saying that the abortion pills were on the way.
They arrived a few days later in a ziplock bag in an unremarkable-looking envelope without instructions, bar a piece of paper telling me to consult an email I'd been sent.
In the ziplock bag were nine tablets. One was mifepristone and eight were misoprostol.
It's worth noting here that both mifepristone and misoprostal have been named as 'essential medicines' by the World Health Organisation.
This means the WHO believes that they "satisfy the priority health care needs of the population" and recommends that they are available at all times in appropriate dosage and at an affordable price.
They're used, under supervision, to perform medical abortions in countries including the UK, the US, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Sweden, India, New Zealand, China, Russia and South Africa.
The email I'd been sent contained instructions on how to take the tablets. I was warned that the pills were only suitable for pregnancies up to nine weeks.
I was to take the mifepristone first. This might cause fever, chills, diarrhoea and nausea.
I was told to take four of the misoprotol tablets 24 hours later. These would cause bleeding and cramps between one and five hours after taking them. I could expect a heavier flow than from a period and clotting and was advised to use pads and not tampons while I bled.
The bleeding should slow down after 24 hours, I was told.
I was advised to have someone with me when I took them and I was warned not to take them if I couldn't get to a doctor within two hours.
The email also contained information on the possible complications.
I could get an infection in my uterus or my cervix, I was told. I could haemorrhage. I could have what's known as an incomplete abortion, which is when some foetal or placental tissue remains inside the woman afterwards.
It all sounded rough and honestly, pretty dangerous to take without medical advice. I'd never encourage anyone to take any medication without advice and supervision from a doctor, let alone something as potent as these tablets.
But the reality is that people do.
I can only imagine the dire straights someone would be in to feel that they'd no other choice but to take a tablet that arrived anonymously in the post.
I can only imagine how utterly grim it must be to feel nauseous on the first day and to know that the second day will be worse.
I can only imagine how terrifying it could be to bleed heavily and wonder if you're haemorrhaging, or to contract an infection and wonder what might happen to you if you tell someone.
I can only imagine how hopeless it could be to go through any of the above alone.
It is illegal to order abortion pills online. There are also severe potential risks to taking these tablets without medical supervision.
We have destroyed the medication that we procured for this story.