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UK News

Over 600 UK medical professionals call on the government to end 'DIY' home abortion

by Chantalle Edmunds

More than 600 medical professionals have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister, the First Minister of Scotland and the First Minister of Wales requesting 'at home' abortion schemes are revoked with immediate effect.

The letter follows public consultations by each government on whether to make the temporary 'at-home' abortion policy permanent and outlines risks that the temporary measures present to women's health and welfare.

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic the UK government put in place temporary approval enabling women and girls to take both pills for early medical abortion in their own homes, following a telephone or e-consultation with a clinician. Prior to the pandemic, government policy permitted only the second pill for early medical abortion to be taken at home and that women should attend an abortion service to take the first.

According to the charity, Right To Life UK, a leaked email from an NHS England and NHS Improvement Regional Chief Midwife on the 'escalating risks' of home abortion claimed that there have been several incidents including ruptured ectopic pregnancies and resuscitation for major haemorrhage, that a woman at 32 weeks of pregnancy was able to receive 'at-home' abortion pills, and that there are three police investigations linked to late 'at-home' abortions, including a 'murder investigation as there is concern that the baby was live born'. 

Polling from Savanta ComRes shows 68% of the general population and 75% of women in England are concerned about women undergoing an abortion procedure at home. The polling also shows that 84% of the general population and 86% of women are concerned about women being at risk of being coerced into an abortion by a partner or family member during the home abortion process where a doctor does not see the woman in person. 

Dr Calum Miller, medical doctor and Research Associate at the University of Oxford said in a statement: "The best way to recognise victims of coerced abortion is through an in-person consultation. Medical professionals know it, the government knows it, and abortion providers themselves know it. Coerced abortion is a serious human rights abuse that the government and doctor have a duty to prevent, not facilitate. It's time we put women's safety before convenience.

"The World Health Organisation (WHO) say that women having abortions should be seen in person for at least a physical examination. This is a critical safety measure to check the gestation of the pregnancy and assess for contra-indications and ectopic pregnancies. In a country aiming to provide women with world-class healthcare and not merely the minimum standard, ultrasound should also be routine. We should not be failing women by eliminating the checks we have in place to put their safety first," he added.

Carla Lockhart MP for Upper Bann added: "Not only were these permissions granted by the Government without adequate parliamentary and public scrutiny, but they are putting women's physical and mental health at risk. Given that seven per cent of British women report having been pressured into an abortion by a husband or partner, it is greatly concerning that the Department of Health and Social Care saw fit to remove the requirement of a routine in-person consultation before an abortion. Lack of sufficient ID checks over the online consultation process also poses the threat of pills being falsely obtained for another person, which raises particular concerns regarding cases of underage sexual abuse and trafficking."

Scott Benton MP for Blackpool South said:  "The debate over at-home abortion is not a philosophical debate about abortion itself, it is about ensuring women are safe. Without mandatory in-person consultations to verify gestational age and diagnose ectopic pregnancies via ultrasound, a range of complications can occur. It is therefore unsurprising that such a strong number of medical professionals have come out in favour of ending this extremely dangerous practice."

A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson called the government's introduction of 'DIY' abortion as a cruel experiment on women and their unborn babies. 

"Under current rules there is no guarantee about who actually takes the abortion drugs; there are no in-person checks on the gestation of the baby, and it is very difficult to reliably assess whether or not a woman is being forced into doing something she does not want to do. The UK Government must act now and end these dangerous 'DIY' home abortion schemes."

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