Abortion by Telemedicine in Northern Ireland: Patient and Professional Rights Across Borders

(2017) 68(1) NILQ 1-33

38 Pages Posted: 26 Feb 2018

See all articles by Tamara K. Hervey

Tamara K. Hervey

University of Sheffield - Faculty of Law

Sally Sheldon

Kent Law School

Date Written: 2017


The uneasy legal and political settlement regarding abortion in Northern Ireland has long relied on the outsourcing of aspects of reproductive health care. While local health services offer only highly restricted access to termination procedures, women travel to access abortion services elsewhere. However, technological changes, in particular the development of abortifacient medicines, are revolutionising this aspect of reproductive healthcare. Rather than women having to travel to a service, today that service can travel to women through the postal supply of abortion pills, sourced via the internet. While online supply of pharmaceuticals can pose potential public health risks, at least two groups offer safe and effective telemedical services to women in Northern Ireland. Women on Web and Women Help Women each supply abortion pills, under prescription from a doctor based in another country, to women who wish to end a pregnancy of nine weeks or less. Here, we consider the extent to which the telemedical abortion services that they offer are protected by transnational law, in particular, EU provisions on cross-border services. This offers new and hitherto unexplored lines of legal argument (including defences against criminal prosecution and challenges to a state’s attempts to restrict the flow of services). Through claiming the autonomy-based legal relationships implicit in transnational law and the power that flows therefrom, we suggest, women may challenge regulatory arrangements which seek to limit their reproductive rights.

Keywords: Abortion Law; Free Movement; Abortion Pills; Telemedicine

Suggested Citation

Hervey, Tamara K. and Sheldon, Sally, Abortion by Telemedicine in Northern Ireland: Patient and Professional Rights Across Borders (2017). (2017) 68(1) NILQ 1-33. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3124256

Tamara K. Hervey (Contact Author)

University of Sheffield - Faculty of Law ( email )

Crookesmoor Building, Conduit Road
Sheffield S10 1FL
United Kingdom

Sally Sheldon

Kent Law School ( email )

Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NS
United Kingdom
01227 824899 (Phone)
01227 827831 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.kent.ac.uk/law/research/profiles/sheldon.html

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