Alberto's picture
Women On Web, providing abortion services where states forbid it

The Challenge: 

The Question: 

What to do when an act of care is ethical and possible, but illegal?

The Problem: 

Getting birth control where it is outlawed

The Solution: 

Out-of-jurisdiction online service + anonymous mailing of meds


Full story:


According to WHO, 19 to 20 million unsafe abortions are performed every year (source)

Rebecca Gompert served as the doctor of the good ship Rainbow Warrior. Impressed by the idea of a "pirate ship" defying legality for a good cause, she later started a clinic on a ship, Aurora, in 2001. It provided safe abortion, performed by qualifiied doctors and nurses, to places where abortion was outlawed (Ireland, Poland, Spain, Portugal and Morocco). 

This service (Women On Waves) later moved to the web. Women on Web starts with an online consultation following WHO protocol. Once risks are deemed negligible, women are mailed medical abortion pills (Mifepristone and Misoprostol ), a very safe procedure. 

20 staff answer 10,000 monthly emails anonymously and within 24 hours. There is also a peer-to-peer element, like the I had an abortion section of the website.

Many difficulties remain, including customs. They are, however, being hacked.

My own reflection: once again, when people need something they are going to get it for themselves. Anyone wants to investigate this further? @Natalia Skoczylas maybe?


@Alberto, with pleasure - do

Natalia Skoczylas's picture

@Alberto, with pleasure - do you want me to look specifically at the abortion by-paths? 


Alberto's picture

I thought about you because of the recent protests in Poland. The idea I'm getting is this: tracking "shadow", informal, semi-legal initiatives on care means mapping both need and capacity. It carries information on what people think is important, and on the amazing self-organising ability of communities. 

What we need is a true voice. I got the info from an article. It is a good article, there's a good story but no one behind it we can go back to for more. I was hoping you'd be able to track someone who is personally involved in this service (or others, connected to reproductive health and well-being) who would jump in and comment, or share some more experience. Poland, I would say, is a good place to start.