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Former Government minister backs legal challenge against ‘DIY’ abortions

Ask your local MP, AM or MSP to revoke the dangerous ‘DIY’ abortion decision!

A healthcare professional and former Government minister have given their backing to a legal challenge against the UK Government’s over its decision to allow ‘DIY’ abortions in the UK.

The Christian Legal Centre filed an urgent application for a Judicial Review on 31 March shortly after the Government unveiled what is the biggest change to UK abortion law since 1967.

In an expert witness statement for the High Court challenge, Dr Gregory Gardner, a longstanding GP and honorary clinical lecturer at the University of Birmingham, highlights the risk of serious injury and harm to women self-administering abortion pills.

“The introduction of home abortions as proposed (notwithstanding the presence of a Covid-19 pandemic) is a policy that is more likely than not to depart from the essential tenets of duty of care through proper clinical assessment, thereby raising the risk of serious injury and harm being done to women self-administering Mifepristone and Misoprostol at home,” Dr Gardner wrote.

In addition to citing risks of infection, haemorrhage, psychological trauma, and risk of future preterm birth, Dr Gardner explains how the Government’s decision could result in more women being coerced into unwanted abortions.

He said: “It will be difficult if not impossible to verify by phone or video whether a woman is undergoing any kind of duress to have an abortion. There does not seem to have been any consideration given to this in the proposed change in policy. There will be women who need delicate counselling to discover coercion or other forms of abuse.”

Former Government minister Ann Widdecombe has also written a statement to the high court in support of the legal challenge.

In her statement, the former Shadow Health Secretary reveals the history of the legislation which has enabled health services in England, Scotland & Wales to roll out ‘DIY’ abortions.

During a parliamentary debate in 1990, Miss Widdecombe raised concerns that an amendment to abortion legislation, allowing the Health Secretary to designate “a class of places” as suitable for abortions would inadvertently pave the way for ‘DIY’ home abortions.

However, the author of the amendment, Robert Key MP, dismissed Miss Widdecombe’s concerns and accused the then Conservative MP of speaking from “the whip issued by the pro-life group” and misleading Parliament.

The Health Secretary at the time, Kenneth Clarke, then assured MPs that the legislation was not intended to legalise home abortions and that abortion drugs would only be “administered only in closely regulated circumstances under the supervision of a registered medical practitioner”.

Despite these assurances, the Department of Health and Social Care announced last month that it would allow ‘DIY’ abortions to take place in England for the duration of the coronavirus crisis or after 24 months. Health services in Scotland and Wales followed soon after.

The Government had initially stated its intention to allow ‘DIY’ abortions on 23 March, but backtracked later that day claiming the announcement had been “published in error.”

A Government webpage that had published the changes had the following message for visitors: “The information on this page has been removed because it was published in error. This was published in error. There will be no changes to abortion regulations.”

Just one day later, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock reassured the House of Commons that there would be no change to any abortion laws in response to COVID-19.

Additionally, Health Minister Lord Bethell made it very clear that there were significant safety and safeguarding issues for women and young girls with the proposal. 

As the Coronavirus Bill was brought to the House of Lords on Wednesday 25 March Lord Bethell rejected strongly on behalf of the government the proposed changes to abortion law, stating: “….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.

“Do we really want to support an amendment that could remove the only opportunity many women have, often at a most vulnerable stage, to speak confidentially and one-to-one with a doctor about their concerns on abortion and about what the alternatives might be? 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.”

He also made it clear that it would be inappropriate to make this change without parliamentary scrutiny: “It is not right to rush through this type of change in a sensitive area such as abortion without adequate parliamentary scrutiny.”

In an incredible double U-turn, the Government went against their own warnings by officially announcing they would allow ‘DIY’ abortions.

The new measures are the biggest change to abortion legislation since the 1967 Abortion Act and will see ‘DIY’ abortions performed in homes without the need for a doctor or medical professional.

Under the new temporary policy, doctors will be able to prescribe mifepristone and misoprostol over the phone or video platforms such as Facetime or Skype, meaning they will be left to pass their unborn child at home without direct medical supervision.

Before the change abortions could only take place in hospitals or abortion clinics approved by the Secretary of State.  

The Christian Legal Centre wants the dangerous legislation overturned immediately and full disclosure of the government’s decision-making process and rationale.

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre said:

“The government is acting on a whim of its own rather than the will of parliament and the people.

“The government appears to be caving to the long-standing pressure from abortion industry promoters for whom this has long been a goal.

 “If this goes unchallenged and is widely practised there will be no going back and that is tragic for women and their children.

“I have been able to go to my local GP surgery in lockdown period with a vulnerable, elderly relative who needs medical care. The idea that a pregnant woman is unable to attend a surgery or clinic to talk through an unplanned pregnancy that will change her life forever is not compassionate at all. It is the mark of a society that has lost its moral compass on one of the most important, life-changing decisions a woman can ever make; not to mention the impact on her unborn child.

“We will ask the government to urgently repeal the legislation which puts thousands of vulnerable women and unborn children at serious risk.”

Right To Life UK has launched tools in England, Wales & Scotland which makes it easy for residents to contact their local representatives and ask them to revoke the dangerous ‘DIY’ abortion decision in their respective countries.

Ask your local MP, AM or MSP to revoke the dangerous ‘DIY’ abortion decision!

A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:

“We continue to engage with politicians across the United Kingdom, including in Northern Ireland, asking them to immediately revoke this dangerous decision to allow DIY abortions.

“This dangerous legislation places women and babies at risk.

“Additionally, the removal of any direct medical supervision overseeing the use of both abortion pills could see a rise of complications experienced by women and put more strain on our NHS, which is busy fighting the COVID-19 crisis.

“There are also possible safety issues with under-16 girls and other vulnerable women taking abortion pills at home, school or other locations without the support of medical staff and possibly under coercion from third-parties.

“Furthermore, as pointed out by Dr Gardner, this proposal poses a threat to vulnerable girls who are at risk from sex-trafficking or child-sex abuse, as ‘DIY’ home abortions could be used by their abusers as a means to more easily cover up trafficking or abuse scandals.

“This policy change by the Government goes against the very argument previously made by the abortion industry who argued that abortions should be provided at approved locations to protect women from abuse and coercion. By encouraging women to have abortions at home or other locations, the UK Government have put the health and safety of women at risk.

“The UK Government must immediately repeal these changes to allow proper democratic procedures to be undertaken, but more importantly, to protect the health of thousands of women across the country.”

Dear reader,

You may be surprised to learn that our 24-week abortion time limit is out of line with the majority of European Union countries, where the most common time limit for abortion on demand or on broad social grounds is 12 weeks gestation.

The latest guidance from the British Association of Perinatal Medicine enables doctors to intervene to save premature babies from 22 weeks. The latest research indicates that a significant number of babies born at 22 weeks gestation can survive outside the womb, and this number increases with proactive perinatal care.

This leaves a real contradiction in British law. In one room of a hospital, doctors could be working to save a baby born alive at 23 weeks whilst, in another room of that same hospital, a doctor could perform an abortion that would end the life of a baby at the same age.

The majority of the British population support reducing the time limit. Polling has shown that 70% of British women favour a reduction in the time limit from 24 weeks to 20 weeks or below.

Please click the button below to sign the petition to the Prime Minister, asking him to do everything in his power to reduce the abortion time limit.