During the pandemic, abortion providers offered “pills by post” without a face-to-face consultation. Now, as government considers making the scheme permanent, Alithea Williams from the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children explains why this would be a disaster.
Almost two years ago, the government introduced temporary measures to allow abortion pills to be sent to women in the post, without a face-to-face consultation. Despite assurances that this was an emergency measure to prevent the spread of Covid, abortion providers have been campaigning heavily for the “pills by post” scheme to be made permanent. As the expiry date (30 March) approaches they are clearly getting worried – several groups wrote to the Health Minister warning of “disastrous” consequences if the policy is withdrawn as originally planned.
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service told the Minister that it would be “utterly cruel” to end the scheme. However, in the eyes of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), and the coalition of pro-life and Christian groups that have spearheaded opposition to the scheme, what is “utterly cruel” is the policy itself.
Why is this? After all, while we believe that abortion itself is wrong, does it really make much difference where it takes place? Why, especially during the pandemic, should women go into a clinic just to take a pill? The problem is that this isn’t about where a pill is taken. The pills by post system means that the woman never sees a medical professional in person – so there’s no scan to check the gestation of the pregnancy (the pills are only supposed to be taken up to 10 weeks) and no private consultation to ensure she isn’t being coerced. In addition, a medical abortion isn’t just taking a pill to make a pregnancy disappear. It is a painful and often traumatic process, where the drugs cause cramping and bleeding to expel the baby.
It’s just crazy now that I look back on it, and I just think how I was even able to take those tablets home.
Natalia, who was 19 when she took abortion pills at home, described the pain as like “being stabbed in the stomach”. She said: “I was never told about the risks that there are, emotionally and physically. I wasn’t aware of them. I was never offered a scan, so it was never like they actually knew how far along I was. It’s just crazy now that I look back on it, and I just think how I was even able to take those tablets home. I mean, for all they know, I could’ve been so far gone [that] it could’ve caused some serious damage. It’s not just a group of cells. It is actually a baby, because I’ve seen it. It’s not what they tell you it is. It is a life.”
Many women have experiences like Natalia’s. But there is also objective evidence for how dangerous this policy is. Freedom of Information requests made to NHS Trusts in England show that 5.9% of women using abortion drugs are subsequently treated in hospital for complications arising from an incomplete abortion. Data from NHS Ambulance Services that indicate that on average 36 women every month make 999 calls seeking medical assistance for complications arising from having taken abortion pills. A mystery client investigation published by Christian Concern in 2021 found that pills could be obtained using false information since NHS numbers are not required and identity checks were not carried out.
5.9% of women using abortion drugs are subsequently treated in hospital for complications arising from an incomplete abortion.
Now is the time to remind our politicians of their promise that the home abortions policy would be a temporary emergency measure. We’re encouraging supporters to ask their MPs to lobby the Health Minister to end the scheme as the government had previously promised. We must make a final push to remove this horrific DIY abortion policy before it harms more women and ends the lives of more babies.