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ss triple helix - Spring 2021,  'DIY home abortion' regulations in the UK

'DIY home abortion' regulations in the UK

Are they set to stay despite safety concerns?
Review by David Smithard, Triple Helix editor & Jennie Pollock, CMF Associate Head of Public Policy

In March 2020, new temporary legislation was rolled out allowing for women to have Early Medical Abortions (EMA) at up to nine weeks and six days' gestation 'in their own homes, without the need to first attend a hospital or clinic'. [1]
CMF and many others have repeatedly raised concerns about the safety of this 'home abortion' scheme. Within weeks it was revealed that police were investigating the death of a baby 'after its mother took abortion drugs at home while 28 weeks pregnant'. [2] An undercover investigation by Christian Concern revealed that women were able to obtain the pills after giving false names and gestations. [3]

Data from an FOI request to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) revealed that between April and November 2020, 19 women received hospital treatment for complications following early medical abortion 'in which the gestational age (GA) of the pregnancy was greater than the legal limit for EMA... including four cases in which the GA was beyond 24 weeks.' [4] Eleven of these cases involved women using the 'pills by post' scheme.

In a poll of Scottish adults conducted by SPUC, an 'overwhelming majority' of respondents expressed concern that without a face-to-face consultation, women might be pressured or coerced into having an unwanted abortion. [5]

The current arrangement was to be temporary, for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic. [6] Now the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Scottish and Welsh governments have consulted on whether to extend the provision beyond its original timescale. CMF has responded to the consultations, setting out our concerns around women's safety, the risk of coercion, and the lack of appropriate record-keeping. You can read our submissions on the CMF website.[7]

CMF is working with other organisations to gather further evidence and challenge this legislative creep. We encourage our members to keep abreast of this situation and the increasing evidence of the dangers of keeping and extending the current emergency legislation. Do pray for the safety of women and newborns to remain uppermost in the minds of legislators across the four nations.

1. Temporary approval of home use for both stages of early medical abortion. Department of Health and Social Care. 30 March 2020.
2. Simcox G. Police investigate death of unborn baby after woman took 'pills by post' abortion drugs while 28 weeks pregnant - four past the legal limit, Mail Online. 23 May 2020.
3. Abortion at Home: A Mystery Client Investigation. Christian Concern. 20 January 2021.
4. Hospital Treatments for Complications from Early Medical Abortion. Percuity Limited. 15 February 2021.
5. Overwhelming majority of Scots concerned about 'barbaric' DIY abortion in major opinion poll. SPUC. 21 January 2021.
6. The Abortion Act 1967 - Approval of a Class of Places. Department of Health and Social Care. 30 March 2020.
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