Pro-lifers speak out as ‘DIY abortion’ amendment advances

baby feet Liudmila Fadzeyeva/Shutterstock

Women in England are being put at risk amid the progression of a “do-it-yourself” abortion amendment in the U.K. parliament, a pro-life group said Thursday.

“This move by a very small group of peers to hijack the Health and Care Bill to make dangerous ‘DIY’ abortion services permanent, if successful, would put many women at risk and polling shows that it is not supported by the public or GPs,” Catherine Robinson, spokeswoman for Right To Life UK, told CNA in a March 17 statement.

The amendment, which was passed by the House of Lords, the upper house of the U.K. parliament, on March 16, would permanently allow women to have an at-home chemical abortion if finally approved by both houses of parliament and royal assent is granted by the queen — which is normally a formality.

A chemical abortion occurs when a woman takes two pills called mifepristone and misoprostol.

Robinson called on Members of Parliament to reject the amendment, saying it would “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.”

The “temporary provision” began in March 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the government announced that it was temporarily lawful for women to take both abortion pills to procure a chemical abortion in their homes up to nine weeks and six days gestation. The policy is still in effect but is due to expire Aug. 29.

For now, all a woman has to do to access chemical abortion pills is set up a telephone call or e-consultation with a clinician. As the end of August approaches, the policy is expected to look similar to the policy before the 2020 change, which said that women were only allowed to take the second pill at home, while the first pill was required to be taken at a clinic.

According to Right to Life UK, the amendment will now enter a process called “ping pong,” meaning it will eventually return to the House of Commons, where MPs will have an opportunity to vote on the amendment. The bill’s next reading is expected to be on March 23 in the House of Lords.

The amendment was introduced as part of the Health and Care Bill 2021-22, which proposes significant changes to the structure and policies of the National Health Service.

Robinson said that in May 2021 more than 600 medical professionals petitioned the government to cease the “at-home” abortion policy citing “concerns that it has led to a number of abortions occurring over the 10-week limit and that it fails to protect women and girls from being coerced into an abortion against their will.”

She also said that the women lack necessary provisions such as “in-person medical supervision, reliable in-person safeguarding checks or a routine in-person medical examination.”

Robinson added that in November 2021 a study was released that “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.”

According to the National Health Service, abortions in England, Scotland, and Wales must be carried out before the 24th week of pregnancy, except “in very limited circumstances — for example, if the mother’s life is at risk or the child would be born with a severe disability.”

In December 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lifted restrictions on mifepristone, one of the drugs approved for use in medical abortions.

As a result, doctors are now authorized to prescribe the abortion pills online and mail the pills, allowing women to have early abortions — up to 10 weeks of gestation — without leaving their homes. The FDA first approved mifepristone, which is paired with misoprostol, for earlier abortions in 2000.

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