Expert tells why online sale of abortion pills on the rise

The lack of approved abortion clinics and certified pills make some women resort to backstreet methods or dangerous doses.

PETALING JAYA: A reproductive health expert has attributed the high online demand for abortion pills to a lack of facilities for women needing to terminate their pregnancies.

Dr John Teo, a medical adviser to the Malaysian Federation of Reproductive Health Associations, called for an increase in accessible facilities but cautioned that they must be closely monitored to ensure the safety of their services.

Speaking to FMT, he acknowledged that this would be challenging due to a lack of understanding of laws surrounding abortion even among healthcare professionals .

“Unsafe abortion is a global threat to women’s health, and Malaysia is no exception,” he said. “Safe abortion, when indicated and permissible under Malaysian law, would usually be supervised or performed by doctors.”

He warned that efforts to stop the online sale of abortion pills would be difficult if safe and certified pills, such as misoprostol and mifepristone, remained unavailable.

He said this created a situation in which those seeking abortion services would be tricked into buying adulterated or fake pills, some of which could be dangerous.

The lack of approved abortion clinics and certified pills, he added, could make some women resort to backstreet methods or dangerous doses.

He stressed the need for comprehensive sex education, saying this would help decrease the number of unplanned pregnancies.

“It has been shown that increasing information and knowledge does decrease the incidence of abortions,” he said.

He also suggested freer access to contraceptives for women and girls and an increase in the availability of post-abortion family planning services.

The president of the Malaysian Medical Association, Dr N Ganabaskaran, said some abortion pills had been proven to be safe alternatives to surgical abortions and were usually preferred by those intending to end their pregnancies.

He added, however, that it was better to consult a family doctor or an obstetrician or gynaecologist than to make online purchases.

“A person may suffer complications and serious health issues if the drug purchased is not suitable for her or if they are fakes,” he said.

It was reported last week that the ministry of health had, since 2016, conducted 16 raids targeting abortion pills sold online. The confiscated products were reportedly worth RM97,578.

The ministry’s director-general, Noor Hisham Abdullah, said misoprostol and mifepristone pills were illegal in Malaysia.