The Court of Appeal has today (29 July) refused to consider evidence that suggests women are dying and experiencing serious harm due to the ‘DIY’ abortion telemedicine service.
Lady Justice King refused the evidence saying that she would give reason for the refusal later.
Judicial review heard in Court of Appeal
The case, brought by Christian Concern, argued that the government’s DIY home abortion policy, introduced during lockdown, goes against the purpose of the Abortion Act by allowing dangerous abortions.
At the judicial review hearing, Christian Concern’s lawyers argued that Mr Hancock had no power under the 1967 Abortion Act to authorise home abortions. The decision to introduce DIY home abortions was the most significant change in UK abortion law since the adoption of the 1967 Act. However, only Parliament is able to change the law, which states that abortions may only take place in NHS hospitals and approved clinics.
Lawyers argued that 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.
We are now awaiting a judgment from the hearing.
Leaked NHS email
Christian Concern submitted a witness statement from Kevin Duffy, former global clinics director at abortion provider Marie Stopes International. Mr Duffy’s statement revealed the contents of an ‘urgent’ email sent to NHS staff on the ‘escalating risks’ of the ‘pills by post’ service. Sent by a senior chief midwife at NHS England and NHS Improvement, the email discusses concerns raised by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) with regional Chief Medical Officers, and reveals serious incidents in two NHS regions.
Sent on 21 May 2020, the email states that there are 13 incidents under investigation. These include a murder investigation into the death of a baby aborted alive, two maternal deaths, and abortion pills being delivered to a woman 22 weeks over the legal limit for home abortion.
The email was marked as urgent and begins by stating that the CQC have been made ‘aware of an escalating risk around the ‘Pills by Post’ process’. It continues:
“In [our region] we are aware that there have been 2 maternal deaths linked to this issue also. One case where a woman was found at home the morning after starting the process and the second where a woman presented with sepsis and died very quickly in the A&E dept. Neither of these women were known to our maternity or gynae services as far as we are aware.”
In relation to issues in a second region, it says:
“The incidents in [another region] range between women attending ED with significant pain and bleeding related to the process through to ruptured ectopics, major resuscitation for major haemorrhage and the delivery of infants who are up to 30 weeks gestation. There was also a near miss where a woman had received the pills by post and then wished for a scan so attended a trust and was found to be 32 weeks. There are 3 police investigations in [the second region] linked to these incidents and one of those is currently a murder investigation as there is a concern that the baby was live born. The PM is being undertaken by a home office pathologist.”
Despite the clear harm the service is having on pregnant women in these regions, the email raises the concern that if changes are made this could have “a greater impact on women and girls choices.”
The email concludes:
“There is therefore a real need for us to better understand the outcomes for the women who are presenting to NHS services. The balance of risk both physically, mentally and for safeguarding is challenging especially without data.”
‘Mystery shopper’ investigation
Mr Duffy’s evidence also revealed details from a ‘mystery client’ investigation into the home abortion services, commissioned by Christian Concern, which showed abortion providers repeatedly crossing legal boundaries.
Twenty volunteers took part in an industry standard ‘mystery client’ research to see if BPAS and Marie Stopes UK were abiding by the law and properly caring for women. Evidence given to the court has revealed that in every case abortion pills were sent to the volunteers, despite them using false names, dates of birth, false GP registers 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. In another, abortion pills were sent to a woman who asked for them because she was concerned about being pregnant on holiday. You can watch more below:
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 which could then be surreptitiously put in a woman’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 withdrawn
Mr Duffy commented: “None of the scenarios revealed in my survey, or the incidents in the NHS email leak, would have happened under the pre-lockdown abortion process. These cases are a direct result of the move to home abortion and particularly the removal of the clinic visit and routine assessments.
“It is simply not possible to replace the critical clinic-based consultation with a phone call. The telemedicine service leaves pregnant women highly vulnerable and must be withdrawn urgently.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, said: “The leaked email is a sickening admission that those running abortion services in England have elevated ideology over women’s safety.
“The email appears to suggest that pregnant women who have used the telemedicine service during UK lockdown have died or experienced serious life-changing complications.
“This further confirms the inherent danger of DIY abortions and shows how ideologues who show little concern for women – and no concern for babies – have captured NHS England as well as the providers and professional bodies.”
Find out more about DIY abortions