DIY abortions

Christian Concern challenged the introduction of the government’s DIY abortion policy during the pandemic, and how the measures were adopted.

In March 2020, just before the national lockdown began, a notice appeared on the government website seeming to allow women to conduct their own medical abortions at home.

Outcry followed and the notice was removed, the government website claiming that it was “published in error.” Website visitors were reassured that there would “be no changes to abortion regulations.”

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, assured the House of Commons: “There are no proposals to change the abortion rules due to Covid-19.”

Health Minister Lord Bethell told the House of Lords:

“…we do not agree that women should be able to take both treatments for medical abortion at home. We believe that it is an essential safeguard that a woman attends a clinic, to ensure that she has an opportunity to be seen alone and to ensure that there are no issues.

“Do we really want to support an amendment that could remove the only opportunity many women have, often at a most vulnerable stage, to speak confidentially and one-to-one with a doctor about their concerns on abortion and about what the alternatives might be? The bottom line is that, if there is an abusive relationship and no legal requirement for a doctor’s involvement, it is far more likely that a vulnerable woman could be pressured into having an abortion by an abusive partner…

“…It is not right to rush through this type of change in a sensitive area such as abortion without adequate parliamentary scrutiny.”

But just a few days later, the government made an extraordinary U-turn. In spite of all the previous assurances, on 30 March, regulations were amended to allow women to abort their child at home.

The move puts women at risk, further liberalises abortion practice in the UK, and undermines democratic process.

Christian Concern’s case was heard by the Court of Appeal on 29 July, but after refusing to hear evidence that would have prevented them from reaching their legal decisions, the judges ruled that the government decision was lawful. Christian Concern appealed to the Supreme Court, but the case was rejected.

Christian Concern took the case to the European Court of Human Rights, but it was rejected.

Then in August 2022, as the measures were due to end, the policy was made permanent as part of the Health and Care Bill.

Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern commented:

“The evidence is clear that DIY abortions are not safe. Women have died. Others have suffered. The process has clearly been abused and used unlawfully.

“We warned from the beginning that allowing DIY abortions on a ‘temporary basis’ would quickly be turned into a permanent measure. Now the government has made this intention clear. We will resist this proposal in the consultation with all of the evidence that we have collected which shows that DIY abortions are harmful and dangerous for women.

“Abortion pills through the post is a system that needs to be stopped immediately and a thorough investigation needs to occur around the legality and practices of the two major abortion providers in the UK.”


High Court legal documents

Court of Appeal legal documents

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