DIY abortion judicial review proceeds as govt says ‘temporary’ measure will remain7 July 2020 Issued by: Christian Concern
Christian Concern’s legal challenge of the government’s decision to allow DIY abortions is to be heard by the Court of Appeal on 28 or 29 July.
Last night, an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill was withdrawn that would have permanently allowed abortions to take place at any location in cases of suspected domestic abuse. However, speaking for the government, Victoria Atkins MP promised that the current policy of home abortions would continue “until [a] public consultation concludes and a decision has been made”.
At the judicial review hearing, Christian Concern’s lawyers will argue that Mr Hancock had no power under the 1967 Abortion Act to authorise home abortions. Only Parliament could change the law, which is that abortions may only take place in NHS hospitals and approved clinics.
Second, permitting DIY abortions at home frustrates the purpose of the Abortion Act, which is to prevent ‘backstreet abortions’ and ensure that abortions take place in safe and hygienic conditions.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern commented: “We welcome the decision made last night by MPs to keep abortion law as it stands. However, the government’s promise to keep home abortions until a consultation has taken place disregards the safety of women and contradicts the ’emergency’ reasons the measures were first put in place.”
Evidence showing risk of abuse cited in Parliament
Christian Concern’s legal challenge has highlighted many of the dangers of the government’s DIY abortion policy.
Dr Gregory Gardner’s witness statement, which showed that DIY abortions put women’s physical and mental health at risk, was cited by Sir Edward Leigh during the debate:
“As Dr Gregory Gardner, a GP and honorary clinical lecturer at the University of Birmingham, highlighted in his witness statement:
It will be difficult if not impossible to verify by phone or video whether a woman is undergoing any kind of duress to have an abortion. There does not seem to have been any consideration given to this in the proposed change in policy. There will be women who need delicate counselling to discover coercion or other forms of abuse.”
Abortion provider misled Department for Health
Evidence at the High Court hearing in May highlighted how major abortion provider BPAS, which leads the campaign to fully liberalise abortion, had misled the Department for Health on the risks to women of home abortions.
Kevin Duffy, a former Marie Stopes International director showed that scans to assess gestational age are a routine and important part of the abortion pathway, used to ensure that the medically-appropriate abortion procedures are given. The risks of medical abortions at home increase significantly after 10 weeks, the current limit.
DIY abortions wide open to abuse
Since the case was launched, BPAS has been shown to be flouting even the new regulations. A 28-week abortion (four weeks beyond the limit in the Abortion Act) was investigated and reported to police in May. A further eight cases where pills had been taken beyond the limit for home abortions were known at the time.
Christian Concern also commissioned a ‘mystery client survey’ to see if BPAS and Marie Stopes UK had adequate measures to stop their home abortion services being abused.
In every case, abortion pills were sent out despite fake details being provided. Case studies show how this allows particularly dangerous abortions to take place after 10 weeks’ gestation and how it is open to coercive abuse.
Lack of proper process revealed
Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, said: “We are for the women, trying to point out legitimate concerns about telemedicine services related to legal compliance, client safety, and quality of care. These women need better client-centred counselling and a face-to-face consultation in which they can be assessed by a service provider before giving their consent to this procedure. A rushed telephone call, by voice only, is not the quality of care which these women deserve.
“The system is wide open to abuse from abusers, pimps, and human traffickers.
“Lockdown is over and now that restrictions are easing, we can safely reintroduce the clinic visit and an ultrasound assessment as part of the abortion care pathway.
“We are grateful that MPs rejected attempts to write these policies into law. But the government should never have promised to keep entirely at-home abortions going until a consultation has taken place.
“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.”
Notes to editors
Witness statement by Dr Gregory Gardner:
Witness statement by Kevin Duffy, former director at Marie Stopes International:
Script of the Domestic Abuse Bill debate in the House of Commons, from Hansard:
For more on the mystery client investigation into DIY abortion providers: