Women who have faced crisis pregnancies during the pandemic have spoken out in support of a doctor prevented by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service from providing women with emergency life-saving abortion reversal treatment.
It is believed to be the first time a medical doctor has been prohibited from providing a treatment that saves lives.
Dr Dermot Kearney, an experienced medical consultant who provides emergency care and former President of the Catholic Medical Association (UK), has been blocked from providing the treatment for up to 18 months, while an investigation takes place.
Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, Dr Kearney is considering a challenge to the decision made by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service at an interim hearing on 12 May 2021.
Abortion pill reversal
The emergency abortion rescue service is provided to women who regret taking the first of two abortion pills, Mifepristone, which usually kills the baby, and want to try to save their pregnancies.
Using the natural hormone progesterone inhibits the effects of Mifepristone, and the latest evidence suggests that the success rate in abortion pill reversal can be as high as 68% if treatment is started within 72 hours.
When women attend an abortion clinic in several states in the US, they are generally told that abortion reversal is possible after taking the first pill, whereas in the UK women are often told the pregnancy cannot be saved after taking this step.
Since the introduction of the government’s DIY home abortion telemedicine service there has been a spike in women, often vulnerable and without access to proper medical care, quickly regretting taking the first abortion pill and seeking urgent help.
Laura’s ‘miracle’ baby
Laura fell pregnant in the summer of 2020. Not in a stable relationship and worried about finances, she chose to go down the route of terminating her pregnancy but remained uncertain about whether she was making the right decision.
Receiving the abortion pills at home via the government’s DIY abortion telemedicine service, she said:
“As soon as I took the first pill, I instantly regretted it. I immediately broke down in tears and felt so much guilt.
“I tried to make myself sick to bring it back up. I was vomiting blood through cutting my throat with my fingers as I was desperate to make myself sick, but I could not do it properly.
“I did not realise how much I would regret taking the pill until I had done it, and it was a horrifying moment I will never forget.”
Desperate, Laura began googling what help was available, but held out little hope of saving her baby.
“No one had ever told me that an abortion could be reversed,” she said, “and the only organisation I found was in America. I made contact and within an hour, I was put in contact with Dr Dermot Kearney.”
Dr Kearney put Laura in touch with her local pharmacy and within an hour she had a prescription for progesterone and “instantly felt relief.”
“I was aware that it might not work,” she said, “but I felt I had to do everything I could because I could not have lived with the guilt of taking the tablet and continuing the abortion.
“It would have broken me mentally and I would never have forgiven myself. I dread to think of the mental place I would be in now knowing my baby would have been due.
“Dr Dermot Kearney provided me with a life-saving service for not only my baby but myself. He also provided telephone care throughout. I was able to ask many questions about the prescription and seek any advice when needed. Dr Kearney monitored my health throughout the weeks of treatment and even after. He really cared about my situation and made me feel like I had support if I needed.”
Laura subsequently gave birth to a healthy baby boy who she describes as a ‘miracle baby.’
“I could not be happier. I do not believe Dr Dermot Kearney should be punished for providing me with a service I so desperately needed and will be eternally grateful for. It is because of his help that I can look back on the moment I took that pill without having to live with pain and regret for the decision I took, as I now have my beautiful baby boy.”
Falling pregnant during lockdown, Rachel felt she could not go through with the pregnancy on her own.
She says she ‘impulsively’ made an appointment at an abortion clinic and when she arrived the next day, she says she was in ‘hysterics’.
“While they were doing the scan, I could not stop crying,“ she says. “The staff were unconcerned and frustrated with me. I received no support, no guidance or even compassion as to what I was feeling and about to do.”
Feeling pressurised, Rachel took the first pill and also instantly regretted it. She asked the doctors at the clinic whether it was possible to reverse what she had done, and they said it was not possible.
Going home, she and her partner began researching what help was available, and she was put in touch with Dr Kearney.
“He was incredible. He was kind, he did not pressurise me, he set realistic expectations and also helped my partner who had questions.”
Rachel has now given birth to a healthy baby.
“If it wasn’t for Dr Kearney, our child would not be alive,” she says. “We have not once regretted the decision to reverse the termination and we are grateful to Dr Kearney for being there for us.”
Emma was faced with an unplanned pregnancy and didn’t want to proceed with it during lockdown. Agonising over the decision, she took the first pill, but knew instantly she had made a ‘terrible mistake’ and urgently began seeking help to “save the pregnancy.”
She was put in touch with Dr Kearney via the abortion reversal hotline, Emma received the support, advice and treatment needed to begin reversing the effects of the abortion pill.
“Without his efforts, we would have been left without information, option or support. Our words will never be able to convey the benefits his charitable medical services provided us.”
Emma is now expecting a baby girl later this year and says she is ‘overjoyed.’
“The service provided is invaluable to individuals who are unsure about termination. They can provide fact-based information and support with required medical action if suitable. This cannot be undersold given our current way of life; with medical resources stretched and limited beyond compare, this service is essential and should be supported.”
First class support in a crisis
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “Here you have a doctor being prohibited from saving lives and providing women with first class professional support in a crisis.
“There is something very wrong going on when a medical doctor is prohibited from saving babies’ lives at a time when we are told we must do everything to save lives in response to coronavirus.
“These women were urgently seeking help after abortion providers closed the door and said there was no hope and no way back after taking the first pill.
“As the testimonies of these women show, you could not ask for a more experienced, professional and compassionate doctor such as Dr Kearney in such a moment of crisis.
“We call on the NHS and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to recognise this life-saving treatment.”
Find out more about Dermot Kearney