Pressure group Christian Concern has announced it will pursue a Judicial Review challenging the government’s decision to allow women to have medical abortions at home with just a phone or video consultation during the coronavirus lockdown..
After initially deciding that an in-person consultation was “an essential safeguard” for women considering a termination, the government later made a drastic u-turn, claiming that there had been an "administrative error" in the announcement.
Prior to this significant policy shift, abortions could only take place in hospitals or abortion clinics approved by the Secretary of State. Now, clinicians are able to prescribe abortifacient drugs mifepristone and misoprostol over the phone or video platforms such as Facetime or Skype and the drugs are then sent directly to the woman’s home.
On March 25, the calls to do away with many of the safeguarding restrictions were rejected in the House of Lords, with Lord Bethell explaining: “We do not agree that women should be able to take both treatments for medical abortion at home. We believe that it is an essential safeguard that a woman attends a clinic, to ensure that she has an opportunity to be seen alone and to ensure that there are no issues.
He added: “The bottom line is that, if there is an abusive relationship and no legal requirement for a doctor’s involvement, it is far more likely that a vulnerable woman could be pressured into have an abortion by an abusive partner.”
Shorlty afterwards, abortion providers issued an open letter to the government calling them to reconsider. Then, on Monday 30th March, the government U-turned and approved the home abortion measures.
Now, Christian Concern is taking matters into their own hands, backed by former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe and Dr Gregory Gardner.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Concern, said: “UK Parliament was explicitly told on March 24 by the government that there were no plans to change the rules on access to abortion in response to Covid-19 as the risks were too high to the women involved. Only a week later the government seems to have capitulated to the pressure of the abortion lobby by doing a U-turn.
“The government changed the law on a matter of life and death without reference to parliament. The government did this after expressly stating on the floor of the House of Commons and House of Lords that this would not happen.
“The UK government is going to extraordinary lengths to protect lives due to the threat of Covid-19. It appears to fail to see the irony in opening up access to abortion and counting the lives that will be lost as a result of such action.
“If this practice goes unchallenged there will be no going back and that is tragic for women and their children.
“The coronavirus crisis is being exploited, not just in the UK, but globally, to make changes to abortion law which would not be possible under properly functioning democracies.
“This is nothing less than a fight to preserve our hard-won democratic freedoms which do not allow the government to make changes to the law on a whim with no accountability.”
A hearing on the case is due to take place on Tuesday between 10:30 am and 16:30 pm.