Mumsnet, the popular online forum for mothers, has been accused of openly promoting the use of illegal abortion pills ordered by post.
The site’s annual charity appeal is supporting The Abortion Support Network, a group that encourages women in Ireland – both in Northern Ireland and the Republic – to obtain the pills that terminate pregnancy.
Abortion is illegal except in specific circumstances in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Procuring pills by post to terminate pregnancy at home is also illegal throughout the UK unless it is signed off by two doctors.
References to sending abortion pills by post now appear to have been removed from the site, but Justine Roberts, chief executive of Mumsnet, told the Telegraph earlier: “As we understand it, the Abortion Support Network signposts women to two charities that dispatch abortion pills after medical consultations.
“The World Health Organisation lists the pills in question – misoprostol and mifepristone – on its Essential Medicines list.
“On the whole Mumsnet users feel strongly that women should be able to choose whether to have an abortion, and that their health care systems should enable them to do so safely.”
ANS founder Mara Clarke also admitted the group’s complicity in the practice: “[Mumsnet’s] users are well aware of what we do.
“It is not like we are directly and personally putting these medications in the post – we work with two reputable organisations providing them, there are several hundred others stealing women’s money.
“There are also women drinking bleach or trying to crash their car or taking chemicals.
“We are very transparent about what it is that we do – and what it is that we do is that we keep women from drinking bleach.
“The work we do is absolutely saving lives and we think it is really wonderful that the users of Mumsnet recognise that choosing if … or when to have a child is a big part of parenting.”
But Peter Saunders of the Christian Medical Fellowship said: “Abortions carried out outside the bounds of the Abortion Act are criminal acts according to the Offences against the Person Act and for both the woman and the supplier carry a custodial sentence.
“If ASN are indeed giving advice about supplying illegal abortion drugs by post, as the Mumsnet just giving page reports, then the police must uphold the law by fully investigating and reporting their findings to the Crown Prosecution Service.”
He also called for the Charity Commission to launch an investigation: “By actively promoting and supporting this activity Mumsnet is also potentially colluding in a criminal act.
“This is a serious matter for the police, the charity commission and the crown prosecution service.”
Anne Scanlan from pro-life charity Life said: “This organisation shows casual disdain for the law in both parts of Ireland – indeed, they appear to hold the law in contempt … it is utterly wrong for Mumsnet to be promoting such an organisation.”