The General Medical Council (GMC) has dramatically lifted restrictions on an NHS consultant who had been banned from providing emergency support to women in crisis pregnancies, ahead of a High Court legal challenge.
Caseworkers for the GMC dismissed every allegation against Dr Dermot Kearney and concluded that there is no case to answer. They found that the women he had supported had received high-level support and, following expert evidence, that abortion reversal treatment is safe.
Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, Dr Kearney, an experienced Hospital consultant who also provides medical emergency care, had been blocked from providing Abortion Pill Reversal treatment (APR) for up to 18 months in May 2021 by an Interim Orders Tribunal, following a referral from the General Medical Council (GMC).
APR involves administering the natural hormone progesterone to a pregnant woman who wishes to reverse the effects of the first abortion pill, mifepristone.
The ban had followed a spurious complaint involving what the GMC now describe as ‘hearsay’ evidence from MSI Reproductive Choices director, Dr Jonathan Lord.
Dr Lord has also been accused by a woman who had faced a crisis pregnancy of pressurising and ‘scaring’ her into giving evidence against Dr Kearney.
A hearing challenging the ban was due in the High Court this week, with lawyers preparing to submit that the interim order against Dr Kearney should never have been made and should be discharged.
Dr Kearney’s lawyer, Michael Phillips, was to argue that the general dispute about the safety and ethics of APR therapy was outside the GMC’s remit and that the evidence against Dr Kearney had failed to demonstrate a real risk of impairment of fitness to practise.
Subsequently dropping the case against Dr Kearney, who is the former President of the Catholic Medical Association (UK), the GMC stated: “The case examiners have considered the information provided by MSI Reproductive Choices, openDemocracy, Safe Abortion Action Fund UK and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and decided to conclude this case with no further action.”
Abortion providers have repeatedly claimed that APR was dangerous and should be banned but failed to provide any credible evidence to support their position.
Impartial expert evidence outlined in the GMC’s examiners’ report exonerated Dr Kearney, and states that: “there was no evidence to suggest that APR increases the risk of harm to a foetus.”
Regarding risk to the mother, the evidence finds: “there was limited randomised controlled trial evidence to suggest that APR increases risk of haemorrhage, but this is more likely to be related to the generic risks of Early Medical Abortion (EMA) rather than to specific risks of APR treatment, ie women who fail to complete EMA are at much higher risk of haemorrhage compared with those who do, irrespective of whether they are prescribed APR or not.”
Ten women provided witness statements in support of Dr Kearney as part of his legal defence and the GMC stated in their report that:
“We have been able to read those statements and we have recognised the consistent opinion provided in the statements that Dr Kearney left the women he had treated well informed about the treatment, was not judgemental, did not attempt to push his own views on them, and was overall considered to have been highly supportive.”
One woman who received abortion reversal treatment from Dr Kearney said in her witness statement: “He was amazing. He was not at all judgmental. He was very professional… He was not trying to sell me something I did not want. He told me how he could help me. He was not at all pushy…’
‘I have kept in touch with Dr Dermot. I was blown away by his kindness. He never pushed anything on me. He just cared. He never pushed religion on me. I am very concerned about what is happening to him so I offered to do what I could to help. He did not ask me to. At a time in my life when I had no hope, he was like a little light. If it wasn’t for him I think I might even be dead now. He is a very busy man, but he makes time for people and he genuinely cares for you.”
To date, 32 women who received APR treatment from Dr Kearney and Consultant Obstetrician, Dr Eileen Reilly, have given birth to healthy babies. 55% of mothers have given births to live babies following the administration of the medication, which is more than double the expected survival rate without receiving the treatment (20-25% according to a previously published study ).
In recently published guidance, health watchdog NICE has recommended the use of progesterone by women who experience bleeding in early pregnancy and have had at least one miscarriage (see BBC report).
NICE’s chief executive, Professor Gillian Leng, said the natural hormone which helps prepare the womb for a baby, is: “of benefit to some women, and as an inexpensive treatment option, can be made available to women on the NHS from today”.
The pandemic has seen a spike in women seeking APR following the government’s controversial double U-turn introducing abortion via telemedicine.
Successful abortion reversal
Amrita Kaur has become the first UK woman to tell her story on how she received abortion reversal treatment from Dr Kearney and subsequently gave birth to a healthy baby.
Amrita, who was a struggling entrepreneur when she fell pregnant last year, had significant difficulties with hormones in the early stages of her pregnancy. Not in a stable relationship and with financial concerns, she turned to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) for support.
“I was really struggling and was divided on whether I should have an abortion or not,” she said. “I was shocked at how little counselling and support I received from BPAS and how easy it was to receive the abortion pills.
“Once they arrived through the post, I delayed taking the first pill. In a moment of frustration and distress I took the first pill, and within seconds regretted it and had complete clarity that I wanted the baby.”
Panicking, she contacted BPAS and was told that if she did nothing that the baby would be fine. After doing more research, however, she discovered that it was highly likely that the baby would not be fine and eventually was put on contact with Dr Kearney.
“There was no judgment or agenda from Dr Kearney,” she said, “he just wanted to help us. Not only did he help me get the progesterone, but also put me in contact with people who could provide material and emotional support.
Amrita has said that after taking the first abortion pill, bleeding had already started which was a clear sign that the abortion process had started.
“After doing my own research, I am convinced that the progesterone saved my babies’ life. I gave birth to a healthy baby girl, and I love her to bits.
“I am pro-choice in that I believe that women should have access to abortion services, but they should also have the choice to try to reverse the abortion if they want to and if they ask for help to do so.
“I believe the ban against Dr Kearney was silly and ridiculous and I am glad he has finally been vindicated and will now be able to continue to provide crucial support to women in crisis pregnancies.”
Relieved and delighted
Responding to the outcome, Dr Kearney, said: “I am relieved and delighted to have been exonerated. I have been the victim of a coordinated campaign by senior figures in the abortion industry who have been determined to prevent women in urgent need from accessing abortion reversal treatment.
“At all times my concern and priority has been the women who have been referred to me for urgent medical support. I am humbled by the support they have shown me in return.
“The whole investigation and the untruths about abortion reversal reported in the media have taken a toll on me and my family. The truth about abortion reversal treatment must now be told and medical professionals who are able and willing to support women with the treatment should be allowed to do so without fear.
“My hope is that woman across the UK will now be told by medical regulators and abortion providers that abortion reversal treatment is safe, that it is available, and that success is possible if they regret their decision to have an abortion and choose to seek help.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “We are delighted that justice has been served for this brilliant and compassionate doctor. We are, however, deeply concerned that a case was brought against him in the first place and how it was engineered by Jonathan Lord, a director at MSI Reproductive Choices.
“The government’s Pills by Post telemedicine service has led to a spike in women undertaking DIY abortion home alone without proper medical supervision. These are women in a crisis situation and many instantly regret taking the first pill and desperately search for help to save their babies.
“It is really sad to think of the many women who have been prevented from receiving life-saving treatment since this ban was in place. No woman should be prevented from changing their mind and seeking to save the life of her child.
“The mantra of the abortion lobby of “my body my choice” should extend to a women changing her mind about going through with an abortion. The abortion industry does not want to give women that choice.
“Many women feel unbelievably grateful to Dr Kearney for helping them to save their babies. Even where the babies were not saved, or where they decided to decline the progesterone treatment, they feel that he has cared for them and helped them when they most needed it. He steps into the breach where the abortion providers are manifestly failing.”
Find out more about Dermot Kearney