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Home abortions “temporary”? Not if abortion providers have anything to do with it

by | May 27, 2020

By Alithea Williams, SPUC—the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children

Ever since the horrific [British] Government u-turn to allow women to self-administer ‘medical’ (or chemical abortions)  at home with no medical supervision, politicians of every stripe have defended the move by insisting that it is only temporary. 

Among the many letters I have seen from MPs writing to their pro-life constituents about this, not one MP has explicitly said that these DIY abortions should be the norm. Even MPs who agree with the introduction of home abortions, have expressed concern that this change was not subject to proper parliamentary scrutiny.

However, it is manifestly not the view of the abortion providers that home abortions should be a temporary measure. If there was any doubt on this score, their intentions are now made very clear in the submissions they have sent to a select committee inquiry.

The Committee for Health and Social Care (which scrutinises the Health Department and is currently chaired by former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt) is holding an inquiry into Delivering Core NHS and Care Services during the Pandemic and Beyond. Unsurprisingly, abortion providers and advocates have taken the opportunity to push their agenda. BPAS, Marie Stopes, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and The British Society of Abortion Care Providers (BSACP) have all made submissions. Let’s see what they have to say.

BPAS begin their submission by saying they will focus mainly on the issue of ‘how to ensure that positive changes that have taken place in health and social care as a result of the pandemic are not lost as services normalise’.

The top ‘positive’ change for BPAS is the amendments that “enable women to receive pills for Early Medical Abortion remotely rather than having to attend a clinic.” This change, they boast, “has been immensely successful and well-received, and women should continue to be allowed to access early abortions remotely post-Covid.”

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists concurs, saying: “The RCOG has long called for mifepristone, the first drug used to effect early medical abortion, to be allowed to be taken at home. This is therefore a very welcome decision both for the profession and for many individual women.”

If it’s possible, the BSACP is even more delighted, saying breathlessly: “rapid service transformation to enable remote care is one of the success stories of the pandemic era to date…It reflects a shift toward online and remote health which has already been developing.”

“When the coronavirus regulations are reviewed,” they go on, “we would strongly recommend retaining the extra flexibility that remote consultations give clinicians and service users, as proposed by European specialist organisations.”

Are any drawbacks to DIY chemical abortions acknowledged?

So how do these organisations justify this rushed measure? Do they even acknowledge any drawbacks to DIY chemical abortions at home?

The RCOG is instantly on the offensive, stating outright that “this completely safe measure has enabled self-isolation and saved NHS resources.”

Completely safe? Is any abortion completely safe? Indeed, is any medical procedure free of any risk?  One dictionary definition of safe is “Not likely to cause or lead to harm or injury; not involving danger or risk.” If that’s what safe means, why does bpas have on its website a list of “Significant, unavoidable or frequently occurring risks” associated with a medical abortion? How can a procedure that they state has a 1 in 100,000 risk of death for the woman be completely safe?  Abortion is never safe for an unborn baby who is killed.

The World Health Organisation’s definition of “unsafe abortion” is “a procedure for terminating an unwanted pregnancy either by persons lacking the necessary skills or in an environment lacking minimal medical standards or both”. Both of these things are true of a woman self-administering an abortion in her home.

It is hard to see how safe can even mean relatively safe. In countries where data collection on abortions is better than in the UK, we know that complications after medical abortion are four times higher than after surgical – 20 per cent compared with 5 per cent.

Or do they mean safe compared to medical abortions generally? Hard to see how that is the case either. A large Swedish study has suggested that a shift to home abortions is the reason complications for medical abortion have doubled in six years. The study, published in BMC Women’s Health, concludes: “The rate of complications associated with medical abortions [at less than 12 weeks’ gestation] has increased from 4.2% in 2008 to 8.2% in 2015. The cause of this is unknown but it may be associated with a shift from hospital to home medical abortions.”

Opportunities to identify and help women in abusive situations are being missed

As this is a new measure in the UK, the very most you could say is that the jury’s out on whether home abortion is safe.

However, these abortion providers are going further and even saying that remote abortion is safer than seeing a medical professional in person! We at SPUC (and many others who are not necessarily pro-life) are particularly worried that opportunities to identify and help women in abusive situations, who say they want an abortion, are being missed without face-to-face consultations. Not so, say Marie Stopes:  “Safeguarding can be conducted effectively over the phone. Our teams are trained to develop a rapport with clients and have considerable skills and experience in face-to-face consultation. The initial feedback from our teams is confidence that safeguarding is equally effective, if not more effective, through remote consultation.” (Emphasis added.)

BSACP goes even further, saying: 

“BSACP members expressed their view that anti-abortion groups often state that safeguarding can only be provided in face-to-face consultations. Providers have protocols in place to ensure that a woman is able to talk in private and is not being coerced. It seems likely that this is easier to achieve where a woman can use her own phone in private than when she has to attend a clinic where a coercive partner is aware of, or indeed even present at, her consultation. BSACP believes that some women will feel better able to talk freely when they are in their own environment than they may when in a clinic environment that might feel intimidating.”

This is frankly staggering. How on earth can they ensure that a woman who is in lockdown with an abusive partner is able to talk in private? I’m spending lockdown in a fairly big house with nice people who aren’t trying to track my movements and I’m finding it nigh on impossible to have a phone call without it being overheard. Where  a woman is sharing accommodation with an abuser, how is this supposed to be a more comfortable environment than a clinic (where he would not be allowed in)? Please.

If this is what the abortion industry thinks “safer” means, then nobody should be taking any of their recommendations seriously. And yes, there are more – according to these submissions, the abortion providers want to use this pandemic to scrap the two doctors rule, extend the gestational limit for medical abortions, allow non-doctors to prescribe abortion drugs, provide the morning after pill free of charge…but that’s material for my next blog.

Categories: Abortion