Byline: Julie McCaffrey
She had never thought she would consider an abortion. But when 19-year-old Lara got pregnant after a one night stand, she knew it was her only choice.
But forced to keep her pregnancy a secret, Lara went online and bought abortion drugs to take at home.
Despite it being illegal to take the drugs without the supervision of a medical expert, some women like Lara now feel they have no other option but to risk their health by terminating their pregnancy alone at home.
For most women who go the official route for an abortion, even in the earliest stages of pregnancy, they will visit their clinic as many as four times.
They will sit through a consultation, come back to take a pill under supervision, return up to two days later for another that will induce the abortion, before a final follow-up meeting.
The law says abortion pills must be taken in the presence of a doctor or nurse. And as much as the second pill is administered under supervision, women are allowed home straight after they take it. In fact, some have told harrowing stories of being sent home bleeding on public transport and doubled over in pain in public toilets.
But for some women, the experience gets even worse than that. Desperate to terminate their pregnancy, they are buying abortion pills for pounds 15 online, opting to break the law and put their health at risk rather than work their way through the official system. Young girls wanting to keep their pregnancy secret are increasingly taking this dangerous route.
And with no assurances about what the drugs really are, and no medical advice about what to do if things go wrong, this could become a very dangerous trend.
Patricia Lohr, medical director of the largest dedicated abortion provider, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, says: "One of the biggest risks with buying drugs over the internet is that in most cases they're uncontrolled and unregulated so there's no way of telling that they are what they say they are. This means they could be ineffective or even harmful.
"When you go through the proper channels, you'll be asked about your medical history. Not everyone is suitable for an abortion pill - for instance it shouldn't be prescribed for women on certain medications or with particular conditions.
"It's also vital to know exactly how far along in the pregnancy you are as this determines how the pill should be taken and whether or not it will be effective. This may not happen online."
Lara, from the Republic of Ireland, felt she had no option but to take the risk. She was always against abortion, until she got pgnant herself.
"I was in my final year at an all-girls' Catholic school and had won a provisional place to study at a top university in Dublin," Lara explains.
"When I got pregnant after a one-night stand over the Christmas holidays in 2009, I wanted to scream. But I could tell no one.
Having a baby would have meant getting expelled and having to give up my uni plce for life as a teenage single mum."
Lara tried all the old wives' t a l e s t o e n d t h e pregnancy herself. None worked, so she we n t online.
"I went out to an internet cafe to research the abortion pill. I was looking over my shoulder the entire time I was there.
"Being pregnant was scary enough, but the idea of being arrested for having an abortion illegally was terrifying.
"I got a tip from a chat forum for pregnant girls, and bought mifepristone and misoprostol online for pounds 60 each. I got up at 6am each day to wait for the postman so I could hide the package as soon as it arrived.
"It was an agonising wait, because I was six weeks pregnant and they need to be taken before nine weeks.
"A few hours after taking the pills the cramps and the bleeding were excruciating, but I felt I deserved that pain. …