OVER 600 medical professionals have called for an end to ‘DIY’ home abortion services currently in place in Wales.
The open letter, signed by over 600 medical professionals, is addressed to the Prime Minister, the First Minister of Scotland and the First Minister of Wales, and it publicly requests that the ‘at-home’ abortion schemes in England, Scotland, and Wales are revoked with immediate effect.
The letter follows public consultations by each government on whether to make the temporary ‘at-home’ abortion policy permanent and outlines the serious risk that the temporary measures present to women’s health and welfare.
The call from medical professionals comes off the back of a series of major safety and safeguarding issues with the services.
A leaked email from an NHS England and NHS Improvement Regional Chief Midwife on the ‘escalating risks’ of home abortion disclosed that there have been several incidents including ruptured ectopic pregnancies and resuscitation for major haemorrhage, that a woman at 32 weeks of pregnancy was able to receive ‘at-home’ abortion pills, and that there are three police investigations linked to late ‘at-home’ abortions, including a ‘murder investigation as there is concern that the baby was live born’. Government data also suggests that complications from ‘home abortions’, including haemorrhage, uterine perforation and/or sepsis, following a ‘DIY’ home abortion are likely to have been vastly underreported.
In May 2020, UK police were investigating the death of an unborn baby after its mother took ‘DIY’ home abortion pills while 28 weeks pregnant.
A nationwide undercover investigation, undertaken by Kevin Duffy, a former Global Director of Clinics Development at Marie Stopes International, found evidence of abortion providers putting women at significant risk by not carrying out basic checks before sending them ‘DIY’ home abortion pills. The investigation also discovered ‘DIY’ home abortion pills can easily be obtained and administered to others, potentially in a coercive manner.
Polling from Savanta ComRes shows that the general public and GPs want ‘DIY’ home abortions ended. 68% of the general population and 75% of women in England are concerned about women undergoing an abortion procedure at home. The polling also shows that 84% of the general population and 86% of women are concerned about women being at risk of being coerced into an abortion by a partner or family member during the home abortion process where a doctor does not see the woman in person.
Further polling of GPs showed that the majority have serious concerns about ‘DIY’ abortion schemes. For example, the polling showed that eight in ten GPs (82%) say they are concerned about the possibility of abortion pills being falsely obtained for another person with a telemedicine abortion appointment where the doctor has not seen the woman in person.
Similar results have been found from polling of the general public in Scotland. Public opinion on this issue in England and Scotland is likely to be close to where public opinion sits in Wales.
Dr Calum Miller, medical doctor and Research Associate at the University of Oxford said:
“The best way to recognise victims of coerced abortion is through an in-person consultation. Medical professionals know it, the government knows it, and abortion providers themselves know it. Coerced abortion is a serious human rights abuse that the government and doctor have a duty to prevent, not facilitate. It’s time we put women’s safety before convenience. The World Health Organisation (WHO) say that women having abortions should be seen in person for at least a physical examination. This is a critical safety measure to check the gestation of the pregnancy and assess for contra-indications and ectopic pregnancies. In a country aiming to provide women with world-class healthcare and not merely the minimum standard, ultrasound should also be routine. We should not be failing women by eliminating the checks we have in place to put their safety first.”
Dr Antony Latham, a GP from the Isle of Harris in Scotland, said:
“At-home’ abortions are dangerous to women for a whole host of reasons. Without proper face to face examination a woman can easily obtain the pills under a false name and at the wrong gestation. This has already resulted in at least one death of a baby at 28 weeks’ gestation.”
Carla Lockhart MP for Upper Bann said:
“Not only were these permissions granted by the Government without adequate parliamentary and public scrutiny, but they are putting women’s physical and mental health at risk. Given that seven per cent of British women report having been pressured into an abortion by a husband or partner, it is greatly concerning that the Department of Health and Social Care saw fit to remove the requirement of a routine in-person consultation before an abortion. Lack of sufficient ID checks over the online consultation process also poses the threat of pills being falsely obtained for another person, which raises particular concerns regarding cases of underage sexual abuse and trafficking.”
Scott Benton MP for Blackpool South said:
“The debate over at-home abortion is not a philosophical debate about abortion itself, it is about ensuring women are safe. Without mandatory in-person consultations to verify gestational age and diagnose ectopic pregnancies via ultrasound, a range of complications can occur. It is therefore unsurprising that such a strong number of medical professionals have come out in favour of ending this extremely dangerous practice.”
A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:
“The government’s introduction of ‘DIY’ abortion has been a cruel experiment on women and their unborn babies.
“Under current rules there is no guarantee about who actually takes the abortion drugs; there are no in-person checks on the gestation of the baby, and it is very difficult to reliably assess whether or not a woman is being forced into doing something she does not want to do.”
“The UK Government must act now and end these dangerous ‘DIY’ home abortion schemes.”
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