As the Deputy will be aware, both the Citizens’ Assembly on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution and the Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution heard evidence about the unsafe importation and use of abortifacient medications in this country during their deliberations in 2017. I was very clear at that time, and during the debates in the House of the Oireachtas, that it was essential that we did not continue to allow women to put their lives at risk through the use of unregulated, unsafe medications without medical supervision.
The Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution noted in its report that there was evidence of abortifacient medications being bought on the internet and used by women in this country without medical supervision. During its meetings, as the Deputy will be aware, the Joint Committee heard evidence from on the issue. Dr Abigail Aiken of the University of Texas gave evidence on research she conducted which indicated that between 1 January 2010 and 31 December 2015, 5650 women in Ireland requested medical termination of pregnancy through the online telemedicine service Women on Web. Dr Aiken also presented evidence on research she conducted on 1023 women from Ireland who completed terminations after they received medication from Women on Web between 1 January 2010 and 31 December 2012. Dr Aiken noted that her research included women from both this jurisdiction and from Northern Ireland.
In addition, there was evidence of abortifacient medications being bought online and imported into Ireland from the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA). The HPRA is the competent authority responsible for the regulation of human medicines in Ireland; it employs enforcement actions, in cooperation with the Revenue Commissioners and An Garda Síochána, to identify the unauthorised supply of prescription-only medicines, including those containing abortifacients, to the public. The HPRA publishes figures each year on seizures of illegally imported medicines; in 2017, HPRA figures indicated that it detained 740 tablets containing misoprostal or mifepristone, while in 2016, 536 such tablets were detained.