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Press release – 70% of respondents to Govt consultation support end to ‘DIY’ at-home abortion

70% of respondents to Govt consultation support end to ‘DIY’ at-home abortion


70% of respondents to Government consultation support end to ‘DIY’ at-home abortion

The Department of Health and Social Care has released the results of the public consultation on ‘DIY’ at-home abortion that was conducted between 26 November 2020 and 26 February 2021. 

Results from the consultation show overwhelming support for the Government’s decision to wind down the services and make sure no more women are put at risk due to the temporary provision from 30 August 2022, with 70% of respondents saying the policy should end immediately and only 22% saying it should remain permanently. 

Of the 18,834 respondents: 

  • 78% said that post-pandemic there are benefits “in relation to safeguarding and women’s safety in requiring them to make at least one visit to a service to be assessed by a clinician” 
  • 69% stated the measure had a negative impact on the provision of abortion services “with a particular regard to safety”. 
  • 55% said other NHS services have been affected by the temporary measure
  • 45% of women who had ‘DIY’ abortions “felt that there were benefits in relation to safeguarding and women’s safety in requiring at least one visit to a service to be assessed by a clinician” compared to only 22% who said there would be disadvantages.

The report also recorded concerns from respondents who felt “that being certified for an abortion without seeing a doctor in person increases risks of potentially life-threatening conditions being missed, pills being prescribed beyond the 10-week limit, more women being coerced into a home abortion against their wishes and pills being obtained fraudulently”.

Respondents from Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and NHS trusts reported that “the temporary measure had increased presentations to emergency departments and that other general hospital services, such as ambulance services, had been impacted by the temporary measure”. These groups also “highlighted concerns about increased safeguarding risks – for example, for people with learning disabilities”.

A number of concerns were raised around the safety of the woman, especially with regards to “women being coerced into an abortion when they are not physically being seen in a service”, as well as innacurate assessments of gestation and “the absence of support particularly in relation to management of emotional distress”.

Concerns were also raised about staff being “less able to ensure that safeguarding [was] being adhered to and women were not being placed at the centre of care”.

Safeguarding organisations responded that there are very significant advantages for all those aged under 18, and those under 25 who are care experienced, to be seen at least once for an assessment by a clinician. They also expressed the view that face-to-face clinical assessment reduces the risk from those who sexually exploit children, manipulate the system or force their victims to obtain an abortion.

The low support for continuing the policy mirrored a consultation conducted by the Scottish Government, in which only 17% of respondents wanted ‘DIY’ home abortions to remain permanently available, and concerns of women’s safety were also frequently raised. 

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

“It is clear from this consultation that there is very strong support from the public for these dangerous measures to be ended immediately, with 70% of respondents stating so. It is therefore disappointing that the provision has not been ended on its planned end date of 30 March 2022. Nevertheless, 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 by the temporary provision from 30 August 2022”.

“At-home abortion schemes have been linked to a series of scandals where women have been put at risk by the removal of an in-person consultation”. 

“A study released in November 2021 suggested that more than 10,000 women had to receive hospital treatment following the use of medical abortion pills in England between April 2020 and September 2021”.

“By removing a routine in-person consultation that allows medical practitioners to certify gestation and recognise potential coercion or abuse, ‘at-home’ abortion has presented serious risks to women and girls in abusive situations. It has allowed severe complications to occur, as well as abortions beyond the legal limit, as abortion providers currently cannot ensure the pills are taken by the intended individual within the appropriate time frame”. 

“This consultation’s results are supported by polling in England that show the overwhelming majority of women and GPs surveyed were concerned by the possibility of pills being falsely obtained for another person, and by women having medical abortions at home beyond the legal limit. Previous polling also revealed that 92% of women in Britain agreed that a woman requesting an abortion should always be seen in person by a qualified doctor”.