Doctors told how to bypass abortion time limit by RCOG

Doctors performing abortions during the coronavirus crisis have been told by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) how to bypass UK time limits on abortion.

New RCOG guidelines now suggest performing ‘feticide’, which involves ending the life of an unborn baby in the womb by lethal injection and then removing the body later.

The guidance states that if a woman has coronavirus and her “clinical condition prevents abortion, and she risks exceeding the gestation limit, feticide should be performed in collaboration with local fetal medicine services if necessary, to enable delay in the procedure to evacuate / empty the uterus.”

This means doctors can end the life of an unborn baby prior to the current 24-week time limit and then leave the baby’s dead body inside the woman for an indeterminate amount of time.

10-week ‘DIY’ home abortion limit insignificant

Elsewhere in the guidance, RCOG says it is “inadvertent” that early medical abortions will take place in England & Wales after the 10-week limit, but describe the consequences as “unlikely to be significant”.

“Inadvertent treatment of gestations over 10 weeks is inevitable in some women, although the consequences for most are unlikely to be significant.” It adds that: “There should be no legal consequences for either the clinician or the woman, even if gestation is unexpectedly advanced, when they can demonstrate that they have acted ’in good faith’. … It should be noted that terminations of pregnancy (of any gestation) carried out within the law are not subject to a child death review.”

Since ‘DIY’ home abortions were introduced on a temporary basis on 30 March, the time limit has already been breached several times.

In May, it was revealed UK police were investigating the death of an unborn baby after its mother took ‘DIY’ home abortion pills while 28 weeks pregnant.

In addition, it was revealed abortion provider BPAS announced that it was investigating a further eight cases of women taking ‘DIY’ home abortion pills beyond the 10-week limit. 

Contrary to RCOG’s claims the consequences of ‘DIY’ home abortions are “unlikely to be significant”, a number of women have come forward to share the horrifying impact they’ve experienced as a result of taking pregnancy termination pills at home.

One woman said she went through “hell” and thought she was going to die after taking the dangerous pills.

Another woman said the pain and physical process was “horrible” and “a lot worse than expected”.

This week, the Court of Appeal announced it would hear a challenge against the UK Government’s decision to introduce ‘DIY’ home abortions.

A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson, said: “It is appalling that the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in its new guidelines is not only suggesting blatant ways of circumventing time limit laws, which protect viable yet vulnerable babies from abortion, but it also appears to be dismissive of women who have had horrible experiences with ‘DIY’ home abortion pills.

“The consequences of both of these actions are not, as the RCOG suggests, insignificant but devastating, particularly in cases where a baby’s life has been lost.”

‘Abortion skills’ added to core training

Last year, RCOG released a report stating its intention to teach and assess “abortion skills” as part of its core curriculum, but made no mention of any provision for conscientious objection.

In its Better for Women report, the College says: “the General Medical Council (GMC) should review the Undergraduate medical curriculum to include the importance of abortion care to students.

“The RCOG will teach abortion skills as a part of its core curriculum and assess those skills through examination.”

All doctors who practise medicine in the UK must be registered with the GMC, meaning if the proposals are adopted, pro-life medical students could be forced to sit through undefined “abortion skills” training or risk losing their membership of the medical body.

Down’s syndrome advocates speak out against pressure from health bodies that will introduce abortion for the condition to Northern Ireland

Down’s syndrome advocates have spoken out against Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) for putting pressure on the Government to make abortion available for any reason up to 24 weeks – including for Down’s syndrome – in Northern Ireland. 

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives were responding to the Government’s consultation on a new abortion framework for Northern Ireland.

The stance these bodies have adopted is out of touch with more recent medical guidance. In October last year, it was revealed that the survival rate for extremely premature babies has doubled over the past decade, prompting new guidance allowing doctors to try to save babies born as early as 22 weeks into a pregnancy.

The Conservative Government’s current proposed also goes far beyond the existing law in Great Britain and far beyond what is legally required by the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019.

The Government is not required by the Act to introduce abortion for Down’s syndrome, or other disabilities such as cleft lip or club foot, to Northern Ireland. Yet, to the dismay of the Down’s syndrome community, the Conservative Government have proposed to introduce disability-selective abortion up to birth in their extreme framework.

Under one of the proposal options being consulted on, abortion for disabilities would be available through to birth when “The fetus if born would suffer a severe impairment, including a mental or physical disability which is likely to significantly limit either the length or quality of the child’s life” (Section 2.3 – page 17). 

In England and Wales, similar wording has in practice allowed abortions for conditions including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot right through to birth.

Without a clear provision stating otherwise, under the proposed wording in the Conservatives abortion framework it is likely that disability-selective abortion will be available up to birth.

Over 1700 people with Down’s syndrome and their families have now signed an open letter urging the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson not to introduce disability-selective abortion up to birth in Northern Ireland.

Dozens of families, who have signed the letter, have shared photos of their children with Down’s syndrome on social media to help send a strong message to Boris Johnson.

The letter has been backed by the Don’t Screen Us Out community, a coalition of advocacy groups, who are concerned about the scope of the Northern Ireland regulations and the “devastating impact” it will have on families with Down’s syndrome children.

The letter to Boris Johnson warns him if a provision is put in place to protect babies with Down’s syndrome he will be “directly responsible for introducing a deeply discriminatory law to Northern Ireland that will allow for babies with Down’s syndrome to be chosen for abortion simply because they are found to have the condition.”

It adds: “This seems archaic in a culture where we embrace our differences and no longer treat people with disabilities as second-class citizens.

“We are asking that you ensure that selective abortion for Down’s syndrome, which will have such great consequences for our community, is not introduced to Northern Ireland.

“Boris Johnson, please do the right thing. Don’t screen us out. Ensure that abortion for Down’s syndrome is not introduced to Northern Ireland.”

In England and Wales – where abortion is available up until birth if a baby has a disability – people with disabilities are unjustly and disproportionately targeted by abortion legislation.

The latest available figures show that 90% of children diagnosed with Down’s syndrome before birth are aborted in England and Wales.

Northern Ireland currently has a very different approach. Disability-selective abortion for Down’s syndrome is not permitted and there is a culture of welcoming and supporting people with this disability rather than eliminating them.

This is reflected directly in the latest figures (2016) from the Department of Health in Northern Ireland, which show that while there were 52 children born with Down’s syndrome, in the same year, only 1 child from Northern Ireland with Down’s syndrome was aborted in England and Wales.

A recent Freedom of Information request has revealed that at least 710 late-term abortions (between 20 weeks and birth) for Down’s syndrome have taken place in England and Wales over the last 10 years (2009-2018).

However, the figures are likely to be much higher – a 2013 review showed 886 babies were aborted in England & Wales in 2010, just because they had Down’s syndrome. However, only 482 were reported in Department of Health records, with the underreporting confirmed in a 2014 Department of Health review.

According to the legislation that changed the law, the new framework must be in place by 31 March.

Don’t Screen Us Out spokesperson, Lynn Murray said:

“We oppose the RCOG’s call to introduce an abortion framework that will introduce Down’s syndrome abortion to Northern Ireland. Introducing abortion on request to Northern Ireland would introduce abortion for Down’s syndrome to Northern Ireland. This would likely lead to a big increase in abortion for congenital conditions detected pre-birth in Northern Ireland, and would reduce the numbers of our already very small community. This would have a devastating impact on the community of people with Down’s syndrome in Northern Ireland.

“We are calling on the Government to urgently clarify that they will not introduce abortion for Down’s syndrome to Northern Ireland. All that is required is for the Government to commit to add a simple provision to the abortion framework that will clearly outline that abortion for Down’s syndrome will explicitly not be allowed.

“The Government were not required by Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 to introduce abortion for Down’s syndrome to Northern Ireland. Sadly it appears that they have decided to go further than they are required to do by the Act and have opted to introduce abortion for Down’s syndrome to Northern Ireland in their proposed legal framework.

“We live in a society which proclaims that we want to empower those with disabilities, and that regardless of your background, you deserve a fair and equal chance at life. We believe that our laws must reflect this narrative.”

The RCOG may soon force pro-life medical students who want to protect unborn babies from terminations to learn “abortion skills” under new proposals.In its Better for Women report, the College states its intention to teach and assess “abortion skills” as part of its core curriculum but made no mention of any provision for conscientious objection.

‘Abortion skills’ training could be forced upon pro-life students in the UK

Pro-life medical students who want to protect unborn babies from terminations could be forced to learn “abortion skills” under new proposals.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has released a report stating its intention to teach and assess “abortion skills” as part of its core curriculum but made no mention of any provision for conscientious objection.

In its Better for Women report, the College says “the General Medical Council (GMC) should review the Undergraduate medical curriculum to include the importance of abortion care to students.

“The RCOG will teach abortion skills as a part of its core curriculum and assess those skills through examination.”

All doctors who practise medicine in the UK must be registered with the GMC, meaning if the proposals are adopted, pro-life medical students could be forced to sit through undefined “abortion skills” training or risk losing their membership of the medical body.

In 2016, an inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group found that UK doctors who do not wish to participate in abortion procedures are often refused the right to conscientious objection.

Fiona Bruce MP, who chairs the APPG, said: “This report reveals concerning evidence of doctors and other healthcare professionals being harassed, abused, and denied career choices, as a result of seeking to exercise their legal right to conscientiously object to being involved in the abortion process.”

Later that year, it emerged only 1% of trainee obstetricians and gynaecologists were taking higher training in abortion.

The document also outlines other extreme proposals:

  • A commitment to continue working with partner organisations [likely abortion clinics such as BPAS and Marie Stopes International] to advocate for the decriminalisation of abortion up to 24 weeks across the UK (page 16).
  •  The rollout of ‘facetime abortions’ across the UK allowing abortion consultations to take place over the phone or Facetime/Skype, rather than face-to-face (page 149).
  • The Government should “consider allowing” women to take the first powerful drug used to cause a non-surgical abortion at home, away from medical supervision and oversight. The second drug is already allowed to be taken at home (page 15).
  • Governments throughout the UK “must legislate” to introduce buffer zones around abortion clinics – which will prevent pro-life help from being offered to those who need it most (page 16).

Right To Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson said:

“The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists claims its proposals are ‘Better for women’ through its title, but the reality is the opposite.

“The RCOG’s report, with its misleading title, makes a number of troubling proposals that are worse, not just for women and unborn babies, but also for medical students.   

“The extremely low number of trainee obstetricians and gynaecologists who were taking higher training in abortion likely reflects an innate human reluctance to destroy life. Such doctors should continue to have their rights to conscientiously object to abortions protected.   

 “Rather, this is another attempt to trivialise the ending of a life and to rush women and teenage girls through the abortion process, while providing less medical supervision and support for women. 

“The RCOG should instead address the reasons women seek out abortion services in such high numbers in this country, often because of; vulnerability, isolation, lack of financial or emotional support, or pressure from a partner. Simply rushing women through the abortion process does nothing to address the problems these women already face and would only later compound these issues if coupled with post-abortion regret. 

“The only people who would benefit from these changes are the UK’s two big abortion providers.

“This is a reckless approach to healthcare. Women’s safety and mental or physical health should never be potentially compromised for the sake of expediency or convenience.” 

‘Facetime abortions’ for teenage girls to pass unborn babies alone at home or school proposed by RCOG president

The President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), Lesley Regan, has called for the Government to roll out ‘Facetime abortions’ across the United Kingdom.

In the RCOG’s Better for Women reportto be released on Monday 2 December, they have proposed that an abortion consultation happens without a face-to-face appointment, instead happening either over the phone or Facetime/Skype. The abortion pills (mifepristone and misoprostol) would then be picked up from a pharmacy.

Under the current law, two doctors must sign off on any termination request before handing over any abortion pills. The first abortion pill must be taken in an abortion clinic or hospital with medical supervision.

Both abortion pills would be taken by the women or teenage girl alone without the direct support of medical staff. Although campaigners are calling for the pills to be taken at home, once the drugs are taken from a pharmacy, there would nothing to stop misoprostol being taken at other locations such as schools, colleges etc, possibly under coercion from third-parties. It is not clear how the NHS or independent clinics could ensure the pills are taken by women or teenage girls at home.

The supply of abortion pills would also be much more difficult to control given they could be taken from a pharmacy, making it difficult to ensure that women and teenage girls who have been prescribed the pill are those who actually take the pill. This would make it easier for third parties to obtain abortion pills to slip them into a woman’s food without her knowledge.

Lesley Regan was previously heavily criticised for saying that she wanted to see getting an abortion as easy as getting ‘your bunions sorted’.

The psychological risks associated with medical abortions out of a clinical environment can be severe, partly because women usually see the fetus, which they then have to flush away themselves. It is not hidden from them in the way a surgical abortion keeps the fetus from the view of the woman. Moreover, the remainder of the abortion is always in the home, not in an anonymous clinic that can be left behind.

The RCOG decision to call for extreme changes to abortion provision was made by only 33 members of the RCOG Council and their full membership was not consulted. Following the decision, there was a revolt among the RCOG membership and 650 doctors wrote an open letter to Lesley Regan objecting to the change in position without any consultation with their 6,000 membership. 

If the proposed changes went ahead, the UK’s two largest abortion providers would likely make far higher margins on each abortion they perform as they would no longer be required to provide a face to face appointment with a health professional and have two doctors certify an abortion.

A spokesperson for Right to Life UK Catherine Robinson said:

“Facetime abortions would leave teenage girls or other vulnerable women to take abortion pills and pass their unborn child alone at home, school or other locations without the direct support of medical staff and possibly under coercion from third-parties.

“Self-referral, self-administration and less medical involvement in abortions is not an improvement in health services for women. The absence of medical supervision for taking powerful drugs, often with great distress, is not an improvement in medical care. 

“This is another attempt to trivialise the ending of a life, rush women and teenage girls through the abortion process, providing less medical supervision and support for women. 205,295 babies in the womb were aborted in England and Waled in 2018. This does not appear to be enough for the abortion lobby and head of the RCOG, Lesley Regan, who has said she wants to see abortion as easy as getting ‘your bunions sorted’. Instead, they are lobbying for these changes which would mean less medical supervision, less time for women and teenage girls to explore options other than abortion and could see our already very high abortion rate increase even further.

“Contrary to the recommended changes seeking to rush women through the abortion process, a ComRes poll found that 79% of the general public in the UK are in favour of introducing consideration periods to ensure that a woman considering an abortion has enough time to consider all of the options available to her.

“The RCOG should address the reasons women seek out abortion services in such high numbers in this country, often because of; vulnerability, isolation, lack of financial or emotional support, or pressure from a partner. Simply rushing women through the abortion process does nothing to address the problems these women already face and would only later compound these issues if coupled with post-abortion regret. 

“The only people who would benefit from this change are the UK’s two big abortion providers. They would be able to make far higher margins on each abortion because they would no longer be required to provide a face to face appointment with a health professional and two doctors certifying an abortion.

“This is a reckless approach to healthcare. Women’s safety and mental or physical health should never be potentially compromised for the sake of expediency or convenience.”