Boxes of mifepristone, the first pill given in a chemical abortion, are pictured in a Jan. 13, 2023, photo.OSV News photo/Evelyn Hockstein, Reuters

Mail-order abortion pills sourced in Toronto

A Canadian non-profit has become a major player in the drive to help women “self-administer abortion at home” through the distribution of abortion pills by mail, all below the radar of Health Canada.

Women on Web moved its operations from the Netherlands to a head office on Toronto’s Yonge Street in 2016 and claims to have “helped over 100,000 people order abortion pills online.” Yet Health Canada, in an email from media relations advisor André Gagnon, said it was only made aware of Women on Web by The Catholic Register’s inquiries.

“Health Canada was not aware of Women on Web, or how they are obtaining medication for distribution,” said Gagnon, adding it has “opened a case to determine if there is any non-compliance with the Food and Drugs Act and the Food and Drug Regulations.”

Women on Web labels its service as “telemedicine” and provides the chemical agents mifepristone and misoprostol after an online consultation. It also supplies the abortion pills for what is termed “future use.”

Founded in 2005 by Dutch physician and abortion activist Rebecca Gomperts, Women on Web is the sister organization to Women on Waves, also founded by Gomperts. That initiative exploits a loophole in international shipping law to anchor ships off the coasts of countries where abortion is illegal, and offers abortion counselling and pills. Gomperts has not been affiliated with Women on Web since 2023.

Its website claims “home abortions within the first trimester (12 weeks) are 98-per-cent effective and safer than childbirth, acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Viagra. A medical abortion carries a very low risk of complications and is perfectly fine to do at home without a doctor. Serious complications caused by abortion pills are very rare.”

But their own research demonstrates that Women on Web are putting pills into the hands of women who are in the second trimester of pregnancy, and that serious complications for mother and baby do occur.

A 2021 paper published in the medical journal Contraception, co-authored by Gomperts, Nathalie Kapp, chief medical advisor to International Planned Parenthood Federation, and others, used data from a cohort of 131 women who were more than 13 weeks pregnant when they used abortion pills provided by Women on Web. The paper states that though “the service offers medical abortion to those with a pregnancy less than 10 weeks gestation,” because of “delays in the shipment, deliberation by the women and incorrect reporting of gestational age,” the pills “might be used in a pregnancy of 13 weeks or greater.”

Of the 131 women who reported, 29 per cent stated they experienced adverse events, including heavy bleeding and fever, and 18 per cent required surgical abortion because their pregnancy continued after the use of abortion pills.

Four women chose to continue with their pregnancy. Of those, two women gave birth within one day of using the pills to premature infants and one gave birth seven weeks later. Two of the infants survived and one died.

Despite these seemingly catastrophic results, the authors conclude that “provision through telemedicine at 13 to 15 weeks appear safe and effective.”

The medical fact sheet for mifegymiso, a combination of mifepristone and misoprostol, states that the pills should not be taken if there is no access to emergency medical care in the two weeks following taking the medication, if the patient does not know how far along in the pregnancy they are, or if they have an ectopic pregnancy.

The FDA “does not recommend purchasing mifepristone … online or personally transporting it from a foreign country. If a person does so, they would be bypassing important safeguards specifically designed to protect their health.”

The Liberal government has systematically reversed the former Conservative government’s policy of non-support for abortion in foreign aid projects.

Gagnon said Health Canada encourages anyone with information on non-compliant or unauthorized health products in Canada report it at


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