As part of my internship with AbortionWiki, I created a page about Women on Web, an international organization which operates a website assisting women, in countries where abortion is not available to them, get an online consultation with a doctor as well as a prescription for the RU-486 abortion-inducing pill.
Women on Web makes “medical abortion” and taking the abortion pill sound like the most natural thing in the world. The homepage of the website states that “[a]n abortion with pills is very safe and very similar to a miscarriage. Millions of women have done it and proven that they can do it themselves at home with very little medical supervision. The need for follow up treatment is very small, this can be done by any gynaecologist in any country, as with a miscarriage.”
It is true that some women take the abortion pill and are just fine, with no complications. But there are women who do have complications, or even die from taking RU-486. In its “Questions and Answers” page, Women on Web does mention that women may have complications requiring them to see a doctor, though injuries are not covered in further detail. Deaths are mentioned, but farther down on the page, and in a smaller print, with those deaths underplayed alongside Women on Web touting the “safety” of the abortion pill. This is only one segment of the FAQ page, however, and is completely undermined when all over the FAQ, and the website as a whole, the abortion pill is advertised as safe.
One does not need to look very far to see Women on Web tout the safety of this procedure. In fact, when the online organization is supposed to be addressing the dangers of the pill, the following is said (emphasis mine):
In countries where childbirth is safe, 1 in every 10.000 women dies during childbirth. Less than 1 in every 100,000 women who use a medical abortion die, making medical abortions safer than childbirth and about as safe as naturally occurring miscarriages. This means that a safe abortion with Mifespristone and Misoprostol is always lifesaving.
Words like “always” are bad to use. Using them puts you in a bad spot, because you’re basically saying that there are no exceptions. This implies that every time it’s done, abortion with mifepristone and misoprostol saves a woman’s life. To use the word “always” implies that women are always saved, which implies alive. On a page that is supposed to provide honest information about possible dangers and risks, Women on Web is not only providing biased information, but is outright lying to women who turn to their services.
Women on Web attempts to portray those against abortion as having come up with “myths” about abortion. As it turns out, though, these “myths,” regarding “fertility problems,” “medical problems” and “psychological problems,” are only Women on Web’s take, comprising findings of research which supports their perspective – i.e., that abortion does not affect fertility, medical health (breast cancer, for example), or psychological health. Certain findings say otherwise – that women can have their fertility and mental health negatively affected, as well as be at a higher risk for breast cancer. Once again, Women on Web provides biased, even possibly false information to women in need who turn to them for help.
Now, it’s not surprising that a pro-abortion website seeks to discredit those who are against abortion. It does, however, become problematic when Women on Web touts how safe, even lifesaving abortion is. The website even claims that without the abortion pill, women will just “unnecessarily suffer and die” because “[m]aking abortion illegal does not reduce the number of abortions.” (Warning: picture on website of woman dead from abortion may be troubling to some.)
Women on Web mentions that it can assist women only in countries where abortion is not accessible. The homepage of the website includes, at the bottom this list:
Abortion pill for countries like:
Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Antigua, Argentina, Bahamas, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Congo Brazzaville, Congo, Democratic Republic of the, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, East Timor Timor Timur, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Jamaica Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Federated States of Micronesia, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New, Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Qatar, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda,United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Western Sahara, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe
(For search engines Venda Sale Buy mifepristone, cytotec, RU486, misoprostol)
Many of these countries are listed as “developing.” Now, I wonder what Women on Web would have to say about this article from C-Fam, by Wendy Wright: “Abortion Drugs Linked to Maternal Deaths in Developing World.” With Women on Web’s recent track record, it is likely that the site will ignore these findings, even when knowing that such risks could be more useful and lifesaving to these women than an abortion pill ever could be.
It is important to note that Women on Web may be perpetuating the danger of how the abortion pill is used in the first place. On its page titled “How to get a safe medical abortion?,” which has the convenient sub-headline of “Protect your health and your life!,” it is merely mentioned that “[b]efore starting the consultation, do a pregnancy test and an ultrasound, if possible.” Nowhere is it stated why, or what complications can occur if a woman is not seen by a doctor first. On a FAQ segment having to do with the safety of online consultations, the website further makes an erroneous claim about the safety of the product which their services deal with. The page right away says that “[a] consultation on the internet is very similar to a face to face consultation.”
The United States FDA approved mifeprestone so long as a woman was seen in person by a doctor and had an ultrasound beforehand, a point which is mentioned in Wendy Wright’s article. While Women on Web is an international organization, one based in the Netherlands, and not the United States, such regulations are in place to save and protect women, not needlessly inconvenience them. To truly save and protect women, Women on Web would be wise to have this information at hand about such conditions.
While Women on Web may “help” and “save” some women who would have sought out an illegal abortion and died as a result, the website does so while providing biased, even false information, and denying the facts. Any one of the women whom Women on Web helps to acquire abortion pills could die, particularly if she does not have the full information at hand. Women on Web may be ignoring or afraid of the truth, but the fact of the matter is that the truth would save more women than their biased information and lies.