Press Release

Christian Concern to launch legal challenge to government’s anti-democratic double U-turn on abortion

1 April 2020         Issued by: Christian Concern

Christian Concern announces that it will mount a legal challenge to the government’s decision to permit DIY abortions.

Christian Concern will launch a judicial review arguing that the decision process was unlawful.

The government on Monday (30 March) made an incredible double U-turn by announcing the most significant change to abortion law since 1967.

The official announcement came despite the government categorically stating in parliament last week that there would be no change to abortion law as part of its response to Covid-19.

The decision was made without any public consultation, parliamentary scrutiny or debate, with the government itself having warned that the move would put thousands of vulnerable women at risk at an already highly vulnerable time.


Christian Concern will launch a judicial review of the decision to fundamentally change the law on abortion without proper parliamentary scrutiny.

The decision was made after parliament had explicitly been told that there would be no changes to the rules on abortion due to Covid-19. This means that the subsequent decision to change the law just one week later is unconstitutional.

The decision to change the law was made without parliamentary scrutiny after the government had told parliament that it would not be right to rush through changes to the abortion rules without proper parliamentary scrutiny. The subsequent decision to change the law was therefore not right by the government’s own admission.

As the responsible Minister acknowledged in Parliament, the new rules remove an essential safeguard to prevent women from being pressured into abortions. This change has been made without due process and any consultation and scrutiny.

‘Administrative error’

The government previously claimed that an announcement made on 23 March to allow DIY abortions was “published in error.”

The government web page announcing the changes instead had the following message for visitors:

“The information on this page has been removed because it was published in error. This was published in error. There will be no changes to abortion regulations.”

This was followed by the Health Secretary, Matthew Hancock, categorically stating in parliament on 24 March that: ‘There are no proposals to change the abortion rules due to covid-19.’

Health Minister rejected amendments

Then, as the Coronavirus Bill was brought to the House of Lords on Wednesday 25 March Health Minister, Lord Bethell, rejected strongly on behalf of the government the proposed changes to abortion law, stating:

“….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 have an abortion by an abusive partner.”

He also made it clear that it would be inappropriate to make this change without parliamentary scrutiny:

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

He finally pointed out:

“… where we have taken a huge amount of advice—we have worked with the scientific advice in the department —is in the fact that the changes being offered are a fundamental change to the way abortions are regulated and administered in this country. Those regulations and administration arrangements have been worked on for years and are subject to an enormous amount of consensus.”

Government go against their own warnings

Now, despite these clear statements, the government have gone against their own warnings by officially announcing the biggest change to abortion law since the 1967 Abortion Act.

The new measures will see ‘DIY’ abortions performed on women by themselves in their homes without the need for a doctor or medical professional.

Before this proposal, abortions could only take place in hospitals or abortion clinics approved by the Secretary of State.

Under the new temporary policy, doctors will be able to prescribe mifepristone and misoprostol over the phone or video platforms such as Facetime or Skype.

Chief Executive of Christian Concern, Andrea Williams, said:

“The government has acted unlawfully in changing the law on abortion without due process.

“Parliament was explicitly told by the government that it had no plans to change the rules on abortion in response to Covid-19. Only a week later the government fundamentally changed the rules with no consultation or scrutiny.

“We are launching a judicial review of the decision to change the law on abortion after being told by parliament that the rules would not be changed. We believe this decision was unlawful.

“We are meant to be living in a democracy. In this case, the government announced a change, then backtracked and claimed this was an error, then explained to parliament that there would be no changes, and then backtracked again and changed the law anyway. This is not how democratic governments are supposed to act.

“The government is meant to be acting to protect lives due to the threat of Covid-19. Instead it has acted to make it easier for women to be pressured into ending lives. It has done this in a disgraceful underhand manner.

“The coronavirus crisis is being exploited to make changes to the law which would not be possible if parliament was functioning properly.

“Former Supreme Court Justice, Lord Sumption, has spoken out about how quickly basic freedoms are being curtailed in a way that looks like a police state.

“We expect that the courts will not look lightly on such flagrant disregard of parliament by the government in making such changes to abortion laws after telling parliament that this is not what it would do.

“This is nothing less than a fight to preserve our hard-won democratic freedoms which do not allow the government to make changes to the law on a whim with no accountability.”

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