Legal challenge launched against dangerous ‘DIY’ abortions

The Government’s decision to introduce ‘DIY’ abortions to the UK, without any public consultation or parliamentary scrutiny, will face a legal challenge.

The Christian Legal Centre announced yesterday that it will launch a judicial review arguing that the decision process was unlawful.

It comes after the Conservative Government on Monday unveiled the biggest change to UK abortion law since 1967, after performing an incredible double U-turn.

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.”

The government web page that had published the changes instead 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.”

He finally pointed out:

“… where we have taken a huge amount of advice—we have worked with the scientific advice in the department —is in the fact that the changes being offered are a fundamental change to the way abortions are regulated and administered in this country. Those regulations and administration arrangements have been worked on for years and are subject to an enormous amount of consensus.”

Now, despite these clear statements, the government have gone against their own warnings by officially announcing the biggest change to abortion law since the 1967 Abortion Act.

The new measures will see ‘DIY’ abortions performed on women by themselves in their homes without the need for a doctor or medical professional.

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

However, 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.

The Christian Legal Centre believe that the decision is unlawful, and can therefore be rescinded.

Chief Executive of Christian Concern, Andrea Williams, said:

“The government has acted unlawfully in changing the law on abortion without due process.

“Parliament was explicitly told by the government that it had no plans to change the rules on abortion in response to Covid-19. Only a week later the government fundamentally changed the rules with no consultation or scrutiny.

“We are launching a judicial review of the decision to change the law on abortion after being told by parliament that the rules would not be changed. We believe this decision was unlawful.

“We are meant to be living in a democracy. In this case, the government announced a change, then backtracked and claimed this was an error, then explained to parliament that there would be no changes, and then backtracked again and changed the law anyway. This is not how democratic governments are supposed to act.

“The government is meant to be acting to protect lives due to the threat of Covid-19. Instead it has acted to make it easier for women to be pressured into ending lives. It has done this in a disgraceful underhand manner.

“The coronavirus crisis is being exploited to make changes to the law which would not be possible if parliament was functioning properly.

“Former Supreme Court Justice, Lord Sumption, has spoken out about how quickly basic freedoms are being curtailed in a way that looks like a police state.

“We expect that the courts will not look lightly on such flagrant disregard of parliament by the government in making such changes to abortion laws after telling parliament that this is not what it would do.

“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.”

Abortion activists are now targeting Northern Ireland’s Department of Health in a bid to introduce ‘DIY’ abortions to the province. Despite abortion being a devolved matter in Northern Ireland, an extreme abortion law imposed on the province from the Conservative Government in Westminster came into effect yesterday.

In addition to the legal challenge, thousands of emails have been sent to MPs, via Right To Life UK’s ‘Stop DIY Abortion platform’, urging them to revoke the dangerous change in law. 

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

“We are calling on the Government to immediately revoke this dangerous decision to allow DIY abortions.

“This is incredibly opportunistic and tragic change pushed by the abortion lobby to take advantage of this crisis. This is the most significant policy change to the practice of Abortion since 1967 and it has happened entirely by the back-door – without any Parliamentary scrutiny or public consultation. For a Government who won the recent election on the premise of giving Parliament ‘back control’, undermining of Parliament’s role in our democracy can only be described as an attack on Parliamentary sovereignty: a key component of our democratic system.

“This places women at risk. The removal of any direct medical supervision overseeing the use of both abortion pills could see a rise of complications experienced by women, thus putting more strain on our NHS – having the opposite of the effect intended.

“Although the Government have indicated that the designated location for the abortion will be the home, there is nothing to stop both abortion pills being taken at other locations such as schools. It is not clear how the NHS or independent clinic could ensure the pills are taken at home, and with another adult present. Indeed, there would be no control over when, where or even who is taking the pills.

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

“Today’s 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.” 

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