Philippa Taylor

Coronavirus emergency measures remove safeguards around ‘home abortions’

Philippa Taylor was Head of Public Policy at CMF until September 2019 and now works with CARE. She has an MA in Bioethics from St Mary’s University College and a background in policy work on bioethics and family issues.
The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of CMF.

Under the guise of the coronavirus lockdown, abortion campaigners have taken the opportunity to lobby the UK Government to substantially change the rules around abortion pills, something they have wanted to do for years, as this blog explains.

This week, they have been successful in their campaign. Now women will be able to take two powerful drugs, the abortion pills mifepristone and misoprostol, in their own home in the first ten weeks of pregnancy.

Previously women had to be given mifepristone (which kills the fetus) at a clinic or hospital by a registered medical professional. Up to 48 hours later they would be administered misoprostol, which they could take at the clinic or (since 2018) at home, to expel the fetus.

Now, to the delight of the abortion lobby, the pill manufacturers and abortionists, the Government have also removed any requirement for one (no longer is it even two) registered medical practitioner to actually see or even talk to a woman. Instead ‘consultations’ can take place by video, telephone or ‘other electronic means’.

Perhaps the abortion lobby persuaded the Government that using telemedicine is the way to go since many more GP surgeries are introducing it. However the use of the vague term ‘other electronic means’ does not just mean that consultations must only take place by video or facetime or even telephone calls, there is nothing to stop it including ‘consultation’ by email or texts, or why not twitter?

With an email or text, there would be no means of knowing:

  • who really is on the other end of an email or text;
  • if what (she) is saying is correct;
  • if (she) really is only ten weeks gestation or less;
  • if (she) really lives where she says;
  • if (she) is following medical protocols;
  • if the pills will be used by (her) or someone else;
  • if (she) is on her own at home or has adult support;
  • if there is someone coercing her into having an abortion;
  • if the respondent is an abuser controlling her.

All remaining protections for women’s health and safety have been removed in one go.

How much debate or scrutiny did this significant change in abortion practice receive? None.

It was done pretty well overnight and undercover, despite the Government spokesman stating literally a few days before that they had no intention of changing the law.  Yet its effect will be significant since 71% of abortions are now medical, using pills, in England and Wales, while 86% are medical in Scotland.

These two powerful drugs can cause serious complications, particularly if not used within the medical protocols, or in spite of contraindications. I have detailed in this briefing paper some of the significant safety concerns with their use. For example, medical abortions cause four times more serious complications than surgical, and a quarter of women experience serious complications from medical abortions, including heavy bleeding, infection, severe abdominal pain and hospitalisation from incomplete or failed abortions.

Moreover, what is less well known, the pills are less effective, and more harmful, when taken later in gestation, which is presumably why the Government regulations stipulate their use only up to 10 weeks of pregnancy. But many pregnant women do not know their gestation until they have a dating scan. And women, when guessing, tend to underestimate their gestation. Usually, the last menstrual period (LMP) is used to estimate gestational age, but LMP alone is not the best obstetric estimate because it assumes a regular menstrual cycle. Studies report (p10) that approximately one half of women do not accurately recall their LMP.

The later women take the two pills, the more dangerous it becomes and the more emotionally traumatic, as they flush a recognisable baby down the toilet.

The previous President of the RCOG and vociferous abortion campaigner, Lesley Regan, has said that ‘abortions should be treated no differently from other medical procedures – including something as simple as removing a bunion.’

The irony now is that bunion removal requires fully informed consent, provision of information on its risks, and the direct, face to face, involvement of medical professionals. Bunion removals are not arranged by texts or emails and then left for the patient to carry out!

So Regan has got even more than she asked for. Medical abortion is now being treated as even more minor than removing a bunion, despite the fact that it requires two sets of chemical drugs powerful enough to destroy and then expel a living human being from the safety of a mother’s womb.


This blog is also being published on the Conservative Woman blog



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