UK push for at-home abortion pills denounced as unsafe

Pills Credit thanasus  Shutterstock CNA thanasus/Shutterstock.

A pro-life group in the UK has decried a report from a London-based medical association calling for women to be able to access abortion pills without meeting in-person with a doctor.

On Dec. 2, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) released a report entitled "Better For Women." The report said that 60% of women cannot get an abortion locally. It recommended a nationwide expansion of abortion drug accessibility through the use of telemedicine.

The Society for the Protection of the Unborn Children (SPUC) lamented the recommendation, arguing that it underestimates the potential risks of abortion drugs.

"The RCOG is playing fast and loose with women's health. Their approach is propaganda to deceive women into thinking that abortion pills are safe and simple. They are neither," said Antonia Tully, SPUC Campaigns Director.

A medical abortion, sometimes called a chemical abortion, is a two-step process that involves the ingestion of two drugs: mifepristone and misoprostol. The first drug, mifepristone, effectively starves the unborn baby by blocking the effects of the progesterone hormone, inducing a miscarriage. The second drug, misoprostol, is taken up to two days later and induces labor.

Current protocol requires women in the UK to meet a doctor face-to-face before a medical abortion. Mifepristone must be administered at the physician's office, while misoprostol can be taken later at home.

Under the RCOG's recommendation, however, women would be able to have a video chat or phone call with a doctor and then pick up both drugs from their local pharmacy to be taken at home, without seeing a doctor in person at any point in the process.

The report also called for further decriminalization of abortion throughout the UK, up to 24 weeks.

"In 2019 the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) recommended greater use of online and telephone consultations to streamline the provision of abortion care," said RCOG president Lesley Regan.

"To support this new best practice guidance, the Department of Health and Social Care should also consider allowing women, after their assessment, to take mifepristone in the comfort and convenience of their own home," she said, according to the Daily Mail.

Tully, however, disagreed. She said abortion pills carry risks, and should not be taken without a medical professional present.

"Studies show the harmful physical consequences of abortion pills. Our concern is that these will be increased when women are given these pills to take away from a medical setting," she said.

She pointed to a report last year from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which found that 24 women in the U.S. had died as a result of abortion drugs. The report also found an average of nearly complications have occurred annually for women using the abortion pill.

"One study found that taking the second abortion pill at home can lead to an increase in adverse effects on women, including incomplete abortion, bleeding requiring medical attention and infection," Tully said.

Abortion pills are "powerful drugs," she warned, adding that "without face to face contact with medical staff, this policy will drive vulnerable women, often coerced into abortion by abusive men, even further under the radar."

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