Undercover investigation exposes ‘DIY’ abortion service as unsafe and crossing legal boundaries4 July 2020 Issued by: Christian Concern
A nationwide undercover investigation has revealed abortion providers breaking the law and putting pregnant women at serious risk through their ‘DIY’ abortion telemedicine services.
In light of the government’s extraordinary double u-turn which allowed the service to take place during UK lockdown, Christian Concern commissioned a public health consultant, Kevin Duffy, to carry out a research exercise.
Eight volunteers took part in an industry standard ‘mystery client’ exercise, to see if BPAS and Marie Stopes UK were abiding by the law and properly caring for women.
In every case pills were sent to the volunteers, despite using false names, dates of birth and gestational dates. In one case, the volunteer gave a date that could only have led to an abortion beyond the 10-week safety limit given in the regulations.
The investigation shows that these home abortion schemes are wide open to abuse and leading to dangerous and illegal ‘DIY’ abortions.
Pressure in Parliament for permanent home abortions
DIY home abortions became allowed shortly after the coronavirus lockdown started in late March. For the first time, this allowed women to access abortion without needing to visit a clinic in order to have a personal assessment.
The decision to allow telemedicine abortions has been challenged by Christian Concern, with a Judicial Review.
Lord Justice Lewison ruled it is “arguable” that the Health Secretary Matt Hancock exceeded his powers under the 1967 Abortion Act when he designated “a pregnant woman’s home” as a permissible place for abortion. Lord Justice Lewison in granting permission for the judicial review said that Christian Concern’s argument “has a real prospect of success”, and the Court of Appeal will now hold a public hearing imminently to decide whether Mr Hancock’s decision should be invalidated.
Email correspondence and witness statements in the case reveal that abortion provider BPAS had substantively misled the Department for Health about the risk to mothers involved in entirely-at-home abortions.
These telemedicine abortions are currently being provided by Marie Stopes UK and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS).
The investigation comes as pro-abortion MPs on Monday 6 July attempt to hijack the Domestic Abuse Bill by seeking to make the temporary ‘DIY’ abortion scheme permanent.
Diana Johnson MP will table two amendments which, if accepted, would result in the UK having the most extreme abortion law in Europe.
As part of the undercover investigation, eight volunteers went through the process of acquiring mifepristone and misoprostol, the abortion pills needed to perform an abortion at home.
The volunteers provided fake names but said they were living at real addresses known to them.
They were all able to get the abortion ‘treatment packs’ funded on the NHS by providing fake GP registration and yet the Marie Stopes UK and BPAS staff accepted the surgery details and continued with the process.
Each woman was also able to have the pills sent to their homes by providing fake gestation for their ‘pregnancy.’
Legally, to ensure the safety of the service, a pregnant woman should only be able to take the pills that enable abortion up to nine weeks and six days gestation.
One volunteer caller, Anna, however, gave a gestation date on the cusp of the 9 weeks and 6 days, which would have put her over the limit at the start of the process. On the second call she changed the date of her last menstrual period to remain within the 9.6 limit, and this was accepted without any questions being asked.
Each caller was rushed through the process. On one call, staff can be heard talking over the woman to quickly conclude the conversation by sending out the abortion pills.
Increased risk of coercion
When the service was first suggested, the Government rejected home abortions, citing its concerns that the policy increased the risk of women being coerced into having an abortion. The service removes the standard safeguards of a face to face consultation at an abortion clinic.
This investigation has revealed that the service can be manipulated by a third party to obtain abortion pills for an underage sexual abuse victim without any scrutiny.
Furthermore, the pills can also be obtained by a third party to obtain abortion pills which could then be surreptitiously put in a women’s food or drink.
The investigation also exposes that a tourist from another country, who does not have recourse to NHS funding for healthcare, could get an abortion using the ‘DIY’ abortion service and have it fully paid by the taxpayer on the NHS.
‘Service must be urgently withdrawn’
Kevin Duffy, a former Global Director of Clinics Development at Marie Stopes International, who led the investigation, said: “The investigation clearly demonstrates that abortion at home by pills-by-post, is not safe, and on many occasions it oversteps, legal boundaries without any proper scrutiny.
“Each of the scenarios revealed by this investigation would not have happened under the pre-lockdown process. Previously as part of the routine care, the woman would first be examined and assessed in a clinic by a professional service provider before being consented for an abortion, which could have resulted in her being able to safely self-administer both tablets at home.
“Women can self-refer for abortion services and do not need to be referred by their GP. Telemedicine means it is much harder to correctly identify the woman and what her gestational stage is. Service providers using the telemedicine process are solely reliant upon the accurate and honest self-assessment by the woman of the gestational age of her pregnancy, her self-reporting of the first day of her last period has replaced the routine examination by a service provider in a clinic.
“It is deeply concerning that the abortion industry has been allowed to take this service this far during an already highly vulnerable time for pregnant women. The process of wholly relying on telemedicine must be withdrawn urgently.”
Chilling reality of ‘DIY’ abortion
Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, said: “This undercover operation has exposed the dangers to vulnerable women as a result of the change in the law. This unsafe, and frequently illegal service, is provided by an abortion industry which wields huge influence at the heart of UK government.
“Pre-action disclosure in our court case reveals the hot line abortion executives have to senior civil servants at the heart of the health and social care department. This has to be investigated and overhauled.
“If Diana Johnson’s amendments go forward on Monday there will be a parliamentary debate on whether to introduce to the UK some of the most extreme abortion laws in the world .
“It would be an abuse of the Domestic Abuse Bill to hijack it in order to decriminalise abortion at any time for any reason up to 28 weeks.
“How can a civilised parliament even contemplate such a move when we know that babies born at less than 28 weeks have a strong chance of survival.
“The revelations of how these DIY abortion services are run and the lack of due process should cause MPs to think again and to reject these dangerous amendments.
“If the amendments go through they will have catastrophic consequences for vulnerable pregnant women and for our unborn children. Abortion figures are already at record levels and we should be working toward public policies which bring down abortion numbers not increase them.
“The abortion providers are shamelessly pushing these amendments in Parliament while ignoring the safety of women who ask for their services.
“The issue of abortion is coming to a head. This public health, mystery client exercise, conducted and regulated to the highest professional standards, has exposed the chilling disregard for proper process at the heart of the abortion industry.”