Press Release

Government announces plans to end DIY home abortions

24 February 2022         Issued by: Christian Concern

Today the government has announced plans to end its ‘temporary’ DIY home abortion telemedicine service.

In a statement released this morning, Minister for Vaccines and Public Health, MP Maggie Throup said: “The Government will end the temporary approval put in place at the beginning of the pandemic that allows women to take both pills for early medical abortion up to 10 weeks gestation at home. The temporary approval will end at midnight on 29 August 2022. From this point, the pre-COVID regulatory requirements for the provision of early medical abortion will be reinstated.”

Responding to the news, Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, who led a legal challenge against the government’s introduction of the service, said: “We welcome the government’s decision to finally reverse its emergency authorisation for at-home abortion.

“The policy was put in place after a double u-turn from the government during the chaos of the first lockdown. Ministers at the time told parliament they would not allow at-home abortions, warning of the dangers the policy would cause to women. Their fears were entirely founded, though abortion providers have done all they can to whitewash its appalling safety record.

“Christian Concern was at the centre of challenging the policy from the beginning. Our legal case exposed the behaviour of the abortion lobby as they sought to use the crisis to bring about their long-term aim to allow pills-by-post abortions.

The mystery client investigation we commissioned demonstrated that abortion providers’ telemedicine schemes were wide open to abuse. With our colleagues in the Care for Women group, we exposed the true healthcare data demonstrating Pills by Post is not as safe as abortion activists claimed.

“The government needs to stand behind this decision with confidence over the next six months as the abortion lobby does everything it can to reverse the decision again.”

Double u-turn and legal case

Christian Concern challenged the policy through judicial review in 2020. Lawyers from the Christian Legal Centre argued that the government ‘violated’ Articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights law by approving the telemedicine service which was repeatedly exposed as unsafe and crossing legal boundaries.

On 30 March 2020, after a double U-turn by now former health secretary Matt Hancock, the government allowed a woman’s home to become a place for unsupervised medical abortion.

Lawyers argued that this approval, which happened without parliamentary scrutiny, exceeded government powers and undermined the legislative purpose of the Abortion Act 1967.

The relaxed rules, which the government said would be ‘temporary’, allowed powerful abortion pills to be mailed to women who were, in theory, up to ten weeks pregnant after a telephone consultation, rather than having to go to a clinic.

Prior to this approval, it was necessary for a woman’s eligibility for early medical abortion at-home to be assessed professionally by an authorised service provider during a clinic visit; this assessment routinely included the use of an ultrasound scan to confirm the gestational age of the pregnancy as well as other safeguarding measures.

The approval placed the assessment for how many weeks a woman is pregnant solely on the woman’s accurate and honest recall of the first day of their last menstrual cycle and self-assessment of her medical history.

Illegal abortions

Although the legal challenge was unsuccessful in overturning the policy, evidence gathered in and through the case has exposed the dangers of the approval.

Commissioned by Christian Concern, a mystery shopper investigation of the telemedicine services found abortion providers sending out pills without safety checks to woman significantly over the 10 week pregnancy legal threshold.

Data released by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) revealed multiple serious incidents, including four women being allowed by providers to have traumatic abortions more than 24 weeks into their pregnancies – 14 weeks beyond the legal limit for early medical abortion.

An NHS email leak revealed concerns from a senior midwife of the ‘escalating risks around the Pills by Post service,’ which included reports of women dying following abortion.

Furthermore, Freedom of Information requests have revealed a surge in women having to call 999 following post-abortion complications. Data has also revealed over 10,000 cases of women needing treatment for retained products of conception since the service began.

A Savanta ComRes poll showed that 86% of GPs were concerned about the risk of women being coerced into having an abortion and the potential for having a medical abortion past the legal limit of ten weeks into gestation.

Christian Concern’s application to the ECHR also detailed the ‘intimate’ and ‘unfettered access’ abortion providers have to civil servants in the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), allowing them to shape government policy.

It was found, for example, that civil servants such as Imogen Stephens, who played a key role in influencing ministers to approve the service in March 2020, and who provided a witness statement to the High Court to justify the government’s actions, worked concurrently with the DHSC and for abortion provider Marie Stopes UK.

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