The House of Bishops has stated at this week’s Church of England General Synod that they will oppose any government plans to make the ‘DIY’ home abortion telemedicine service permanent.
The controversial service was brought in under the radar on a ‘temporary’ basis without any consultation or parliamentary debate by the government at the start of UK lockdown in March. Since then, an estimated 55,000 pregnant women have used the service with numerous cases of serious trauma and complications.
Cases exposed have included leaked internal documentation from the NHS revealing maternal deaths and murder investigations. FOI requests from just two of the UK’s inner city hospitals, Lewisham and Greenwich and Birmingham hospital, have also revealed 14 women experiencing serious complications between March-September 2020. Complications included: renal failure, haemorrhage, sepsis, shock, trauma and incomplete abortion. A number of patients required blood transfusions and further surgery to remove “retained products of conception.”
An undercover investigation has also exposed abortion providers repeatedly overstepping legal boundaries.
MP Helen Whately has confirmed in parliament in response to questions regarding the maternal deaths that investigations in one case are ‘continuing.’ Despite this she also confirmed the government plan to hold a consultation on making the service permanent.
Christian Concern is taking its challenge of the government’s DIY abortion policy to the Supreme Court after the Court of Appeal ruled that the government’s approval of home abortions was lawful.
Until this week, the Church of England has been silent on the matter.
‘We have been clear to the government’
At General Synod 2020, synod member Andrea Williams submitted a written question to the House of Bishops:
“Has the House made representations to the Government about the Government’s extension, without recourse to Parliament, to allow, ‘DIY’ medical abortions at home by pills by post?”
This was answered on behalf of the Chair of the House of Bishops by the Bishop of Carlisle, James Newcome:
“The House of Bishops has not made any representations to the Government on this issue.”
During the live questions at the end of the first day, Andrea Williams followed this up with a supplementary question:
“Is it not the duty of the church to admonish the civil government for abusing the public health crisis to introduce without parliamentary scrutiny access to DIY abortion, meaning lack of clinical care for often vulnerable and scared mothers, and death to tens of thousands of babies – easily more than the death toll by Covid – more than 50,000 by this method and facing an overall figure of more than 200,000 abortions this year alone, 9.5 million since the passing of the act: tens of thousands of abortions in this Covid pandemic.”
The Bishop of Carlisle responded:
“We are aware just how sensitive an ethical issue this is. We have been assured by the government that this is a temporary expedient because women are unable to see their health care provider, or have been on many occasions. If this situation is allowed to continue after the present circumstances are over, we will certainly be making our position extremely clear. And really the position is quite simply this: on the one hand, principled opposition to abortion generally, and on the other hand, offering care, support and compassion to all women regardless of the choices they make, and that remains where we stand and we are very clear to the government about it.”
Synod member David Lamming followed up with another supplementary question:
“Has the House of Bishops considered the issue or asked the MP or any other group for a briefing report on the issues raised by the decision of the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to allow home DIY abortions. Bearing in mind your answer to the last question, has it done so in the light of the fact that it appears this is not just intended to be a temporary measure, but the consultation is taking place on making the provision for home abortion permanent.”
The Bishop of Carlisle responded:
“To my knowledge, we haven’t discussed this as a House of Bishops. I am interested by what you are saying about it becoming a permanent feature. That is something we will definitely oppose.”
‘More engagement needed’
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “We welcome this statement from the House of Bishops, but also call on them to engage further with the issue and the imminent threat of these measures becoming permanent, before it is too late.
“DIY abortion is a heart-breaking tragedy which has taken more lives during this pandemic than coronavirus itself. Over 200,000 abortions are expected to take place this year in the UK alone.
“Vulnerable women deserve so much better than to be rushed into a life-changing decision and traumatic procedure without proper clinical care.
“The FOI requests from just two inner city hospitals reveal the ongoing danger this service poses to women at a time when they are in need of urgent care and emotional support.”
Find out more about DIY abortions