24 February 2022, The Tablet

Government ends permission for 'DIY abortions'

“Abortion providers cannot ensure the pills are taken by the intended individual.”

Government ends permission for 'DIY abortions'

Protester at Conservative Party conference last October with a banner saying, Pills by Post. Abortion Essential Care at Home.
John B Hewitt / Alamy

The government has confirmed that temporary alterations to abortion laws will end on 30 August. Emergency measures in March 2020 provided for at-home abortions and suspended the requirement for a medical examination, which was replaced by a remote consultation.

In a statement to the Commons today, Maggie Throup, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Vaccines and Public Health, said that “the pre-Covid regulatory requirements for the provision of early medical abortion will be reinstated”.

She said that the temporary measure had been introduced “at the start of a public health emergency, to address a specific and acute medical need” but that the government had not elected to extend it further than the end of August.

The charity Right To Life UK, said that they were disappointed that the provision was not ending sooner, “but we do welcome the government’s decision to ensure that women get an in-person appointment before having an abortion and make sure no more women are put at risk”.

Women seeking an early medical abortion take two pills, mifepristone and misoprostol, and prior to the pandemic were required to attend a clinic to take the first pill. The emergency legislation permitted them to take both pills at home after a telephone call with a medical professional, dubbed “DIY abortions” by opponents.

The measure was criticised by pro-life campaigners who said that it increased the risk of coerced abortions and of dangerous complications. Women had been put at risk by the removal of “a routine in-person consultation that allows medical practitioners to certify gestation and recognise potential coercion or abuse” said Catherine Robinson, the Right To Life spokesperson. It is believed that as many as a quarter of abortions are coerced by men.

She added that the medical dangers are considerable “as abortion providers cannot ensure the pills are taken by the intended individual within the appropriate time frame”.

Abortion providers argue that a return to pre-pandemic requirements will leave women waiting too long for a clinical appointment, and lead to further medical problems. However, NHS figures show that almost six per cent of women who use abortion pills are subsequently treated in hospital for complications.

Michael Robinson, the executive director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said: “The DIY abortion scheme has inflicted untold damage to countless mothers and their babies. We welcome the decision to reverse this cruel policy which ignores the needs of women.”

He also encouraged ministers “to continue to consider the damning effect abortion has on women, and restore full protection to them, and their unborn children”.

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