Politicians hear evidence revealing harms of DIY home abortion

5 March 2021

A cross-party group of politicians from both houses of Parliament was last night (Thursday 4 March) presented with evidence revealing multiple serious incidents of DIY home abortion, including evidence of an average of 36 calls to 999 emergency services every month following the taking of abortion pills at home.

The group was told how demand for treatment to reverse an abortion has skyrocketed over the last nine months, with around 10 times the usual number of calls.

DIY Abortions and Complications: The Evidence

Last night, Thursday 4 March, a coalition of pro-life groups backed an online Parliamentary Briefing hosted by Lord Mackay of Clashfern, DIY Abortions and Complications: The Evidence. The briefing was well-attended by a cross-party group of politicians from both chambers of Parliament and a number of other interested parties.

The briefing was organised in response to the government consultations in England, Scotland and Wales, which have all proposed to make the temporary DIY home abortion policy, introduced nearly a year ago in March 2020, a permanent fixture. The policy was brought in despite assurances from the government that there would be no change to abortion law. After extensive research from multiple parties, which was last night presented to parliamentarians, various groups have now found that the policy raises serious concerns about the safety of women.

Medical risks of pills-by-post

Dr Dermot Kearney, of the Catholic Medical Association, first presented attendees with the concerns for taking the two abortion pills – Mifepristone and Misoprostol – either in clinic or at home. The recognised side effects of using the pills can include haemorrhage, sepsis, sever pain and distress, and psychological trauma. The risk of complication is much higher if the pills are taken after 10 weeks’ gestation. However, gestational age cannot be fully assured unless there is proper clinical assessment, which is not possible to achieve in the pills-by-post system. With telemedicine, no scans, assessments or checks are able to take place, risking the woman taking the pills beyond the 9 week 6 day legal limit.

However, Dr Kearney argued that on top of the medical risks already recognised, taking these pills at home is further concerning because it enables coercion and the surreptitious use of drugs to induce an abortion, with no assessment made of the risk of abuse.

Demands for Abortion Pill Reversal

Dr Kearney also noted that the demands for abortion pill reversal have sky-rocketed since the DIY abortion policy was first introduced.

Abortions have been proven to be reversable, particularly following a number of studies in the USA, following the taking of drugs to counter the effects of Mifepristone. This progesterone therapy is of no greater risk to the baby if it survives the effects of the Mifepristone, and is of no risk to the mother.

Dr Kearney said that abortion pill reversal currently has between a 50-60% success rate in the UK, but greatly depends on how quickly the woman asks for help.

Although the Abortion Reversal Pill has been available for many years, and has particularly seen much success in the USA, there has been relatively limited knowledge of its existence in the UK. Dr Kearney shared how he had been involved with giving progesterone therapy in the UK, seeing an increasing demand for abortion reversal in this country. He is now one of two medical professionals to set up an official Abortion Pill Rescue Service in the UK in April 2020, following the introduction of the DIY home abortion policy. The service is available 24 hours a day – unlike abortion service providers – and has seen over 110 calls for help in the last 9 months.

Systemic underreporting of DIY abortion complications

Kevin Duffy, an independent health consultant and former director at Marie Stopes International (Now MSI Reproductive Choices), then presented findings gathered from a number of freedom of information requests on complications resulting from DIY home abortions.

Neither the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) or abortion providers have successfully captured all the data about events that have taken place after abortion pills have been posted. In the case of the DHSC, data collected on the safety of the policy is based solely on information submitted from HSA4 forms.

Between April and June 2020, out of 23,061 medical abortions, the DHSC has recorded just one complication.

However, after making freedom of information inquiries to the CQC and the NHS, it became evident that complications were much more common. FOI requests found that 6 hospitals had reported 69 complications following the taking of abortion pills – this is five times higher than the DHSC states.

The FOI requests also found that an average of 36 calls per month were made to 999 emergency services following the taking of abortion pills, with an average of 20 ambulance responses per month.

Meanwhile, abortion providers do not deem surgical interventions for incomplete abortions to be a ‘complication’.

Between April and June 2020, 208 women were treated surgically in hospital for the removal of retained products of conception.

Mr Duffy urged the DHSC to listen to all of the data, not just the HSA4 forms.

Devastating stories of home abortion

Finally, Rachel McKenzie of Rachel’s Vineyard, which supports women post-abortion, shared the stories of two women who had devastating experiences of DIY home abortions, showing the video of one woman, Kirsty.

Kirsty found out she was pregnant in April 2020 but was coerced by her partner into contacting an abortion provider and taking the pills at home. She shared of how she was too scared to take them at first, and by the time she eventually did, she was past the 9 week 6 day legal limit.

Kirsty said: “The home abortion is made to think you are doing it in the comfort of your own home. But instead, you have the memory of what you have done in your own home forever. My home is no longer my happy safe space, it is the place where I took away my child.”

Miss McKenzie shared how requests for help to Rachel’s Vineyard have increased since the introduction of DIY abortion, with many more women now suffering trauma from having been left to take these pills alone and with no follow up care.

Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, one of the groups involved in backing the briefing, commented: “Abortion pills are powerful drugs and the idea that women are receiving them through the post and taking them without proper medical supervision hardly bears thinking about.

“The statistics speak for themselves, yet behind each of these figures are women who have been neglected and failed by the abortion industry.

“Alarmingly, the government is now considering making this dangerous policy permanent – without looking at all the evidence. Women deserve better than this. Women deserve proper care.”

Find out more about DIY abortions
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