The Welsh Government has launched a consultation on whether the temporary measures allowing ‘DIY’ home abortions in Wales will be ended following their current temporary approval.
The Welsh Government is consulting on whether the measures should “become permanent” or “be time limited for two years and end two years after the Coronavirus Act came into force […] or end on the day on which the temporary provision of the Coronavirus Act 2020 expire, whichever is earlier.”
The Welsh Government followed England in introducing a temporary approval to allow ‘DIY’ home abortions earlier this year.
Previously, abortions could only take place in hospitals or abortion clinics approved by the Welsh Minister for Health and Social Services. However, under the temporary policy, an abortion provider can prescribe abortion pills (mifepristone and misoprostol) over the phone or video and then women perform their own abortion at home, by taking both abortion pills, meaning they are left to pass their unborn child at home without direct medical supervision.
Ahead of issuing the temporary approval for England, the Department of Health and Social Care made it very clear that there were significant safety and safeguarding issues for women and young girls.
Significant safety and safeguarding issues
Since ‘DIY’ home abortions were introduced, a number of significant problems have arisen.
According to a leaked “urgent email” sent by a regional chief midwife at NHS England and NHS Improvement on the “escalating risk” around ‘DIY’ home abortions, police have opened a murder investigation into the death of a baby who they believe was born alive despite her mother taking ‘DIY’ home abortion pills.
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, abortion provider BPAS said they were investigating a further eight cases of women taking ‘DIY’ home abortion pills beyond the 10-week limit, raising questions over what checks are being conducted to ensure the law isn’t being broken and dangerous late-term abortions aren’t happening.
A nationwide undercover investigation found evidence of abortion providers putting women at significant risk by not carrying out basic checks before sending them ‘DIY’ home abortion pills. The investigation also discovered ‘DIY’ home abortion pills can easily be obtained and administered to others, potentially in a coercive manner.
A number of women have also come forward to share the serious problems they’ve experienced after taking ‘DIY’ home abortion pills. Another nurse has criticised judges who ruled in favour of ‘DIY’ abortion, and she is considering legal action after a ‘DIY’ abortion left her needing life-changing surgery.
As reported by the BBC, concerns have previously been raised in Wales over the negative impact on women’s health of not being able to access in-person abortion counselling.
Nearly 300 healthcare workers have signed an open letter to Northern Ireland’s Health Minister making it clear that they do not want ‘DIY’ home abortions introduced to Northern Ireland.
‘Misleading’ consultation paper
The Welsh consultation paper implies that the temporary provision has been responsible for the increasing number of abortions under 10 weeks’ gestation.
Right To Life UK have refuted this claim, however. Spokesperson Catherine Robinson responded: “
“While there has been an increase in the percentage of abortions before 10 weeks compared to last year, this is part of an existing long-term trend towards a higher percentage of abortions happening before 10 weeks, with similar year-on-year percentage increases happening each year for a number of years. The introduction of ‘at-home’ abortion appears to have made little difference to this trend., and the consultation paper is misleading to imply otherwise”
“In any case, relying on the self-reporting of gestational age for tracking abortion trends is hardly the foundation for sweeping claims of changing practice.”
Opportunity to investigate serious issues
Catherine Robinson continued: “This consultation provides an opportunity to further investigate the large number of serious safety and safeguarding issues that have arisen since the introduction of this temporary policy.”
“Thousands of women have been put at risk from these ‘DIY’ home abortion schemes and we are calling on the Welsh Government to immediately suspend these services.”
“Every day that these services continue, more women are put at risk. It’s reckless to wait until after this consultation to decide on whether to end these dangerous services.”
“The Welsh Government must immediately suspend the ‘DIY’ home abortion scheme, to protect the health of thousands of women across the country.”
Dr Melody Redman, a clinical geneticist said: “Telephone and video consultations were quickly introduced in March 2020 to allow ‘pills by post’ and home abortions in case women couldn’t attend an abortion clinic in person at the start of the pandemic. This was a temporary response in an unforeseen national emergency. However, this should not become the norm.
“As a doctor, I have conducted video and telephone consultations where somebody else’s voice suddenly pipes up, during what was supposed to be a private consultation. An abusive or manipulative partner could be sitting next to the woman and intimidating her through the whole video consultation without the doctor ever really knowing.”
“Face to face consultations give women the safety, the space, and the specialist assessment to best support her at this difficult time.”
“A robust safety assessment needs to take place. Reassurance from those who deliver abortion services, or those closely linked to abortion services, is not enough. A truly independent body needs to carefully review if remote consultations are safe. Women deserve safe care that has been well thought out. Continuing remote consultations may be easier for abortion providers, but may do a great disservice to women.”
“A nationwide undercover investigation found evidence of abortion providers putting women at significant risk by not carrying out basic checks before sending them DIY home abortion pills. The investigation also discovered ‘DIY’ home abortion pills can easily be obtained and administered to others, potentially in a coercive manner. In addition, abortion provider BPAS said they were investigating a further eight cases of women taking DIY home abortion pills beyond the 10-week limit, raising questions over what checks are being conducted to ensure the law isn’t being broken and dangerous late-term abortions aren’t happening. “