UK Govt launch consultation on whether to make DIY at-home abortions permanentAbortion
The UK Government has launched a consultation on whether to extend temporary measures allowing DIY at-home abortions in England.
The measures were introduced towards the start of the Coronavirus pandemic. Following concerns that women would not be able to attend abortion clinics, the UK Government decided to allow women to take both abortion pills at home.
Under the scheme, abortion pills can be prescribed by a doctor over the phone or on a video call. The pills will then be posted to women at home in a process known as ‘telemedicine’. This is currently available to women up to 9 weeks and 6 days gestation.
Measures supposed to be temporary
This policy was initially due to end when the temporary provisions of the Coronavirus Act 2020 finished or at the end of March 2022.
However, during the Commons debate on the Domestic Abuse Bill in July, Diana Johnson MP tabled an amendment to extend the temporary arrangement for victims of domestic abuse beyond the covid-19 restrictions. In a pro-life win, this was withdrawn due to concerns from other MPs that it would have safety implications for domestic abuse victims.
Instead, the UK Government said it wanted to hold a public consultation on the issue — for all women, not just domestic abuse victims.
The consultation asks whether the measures should end immediately, become permanent or have a 2-year time limit. Current arrangements that allow women to take both abortion pills at home will continue until the consultation has concluded.
Public consultation allows chance to raise concerns
It is important to remember that the consultation was the result of major efforts to protect the Domestic Abuse Bill from being hijacked by the abortion lobby.
Given that there were attempts to use the Bill to decriminalise abortion completely, and then to make home abortions permanent, the fact that both amendments were withdrawn should be seen as a victory. A consultation was not the intended result for abortion campaigners, who wanted to secure a permanent change in the law through the Bill.
A consultation provides an opportunity to highlight the many serious issues with the scheme, such as how it will effectively protect women who are being coerced into an abortion and do not have the extra safeguard of a face-to-face consultation. There are also concerns that women are not having follow-up consultations and that data is not being accurately gathered.
There is therefore an urgent need to respond to this consultation, as it could pave the way for home abortions to a fixed part of the new normal.
Given the serious safety concerns for women and evidence that babies have been born alive due to this policy, it is vital that as many people as possible speak against any move to make the scheme permanent.
We will producing a guide to helping supporters to respond to the consultation. The consultation deadline is 26 February 2021 so there is still time to respond.