DIY home abortions do not take into account the vulnerability of children and young women, the head of a major medical professional body has warned.
In a letter to The Times, Dr Camilla Kingdon, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said that children under 18 years old and “looked after” women up to 25 years old “must be offered and actively encouraged to take up a face-to-face appointment”.
Last month, MPs voted to make permanent emergency Covid measures permitting unsupervised home abortions in England, just weeks after the Government promised they would end.
Women and girls will continue to be allowed to procure abortion pills following a phone or video consultation with a doctor if they are believed to be less than ten weeks pregnant.
Dr Kingdon did not oppose abortion in principle, but did warn that young people “can be highly vulnerable at this point: a face-to-face appointment would allow a healthcare professional to talk to them, examine them if necessary and spot any safeguarding issues”.
As the Bill reaches its final stages, she called on the Government to take into account this “glaring gap” in its legislation.
The National Network of Designated Health Care Professionals, which represents medical professionals who are involved in children’s safeguarding, recorded 47 cases of home abortions since March 2020 which were beyond the 10-week limit.
Of these, six cases involved girls and in twelve instances children were born with signs of life.
Dr Helen Daley, a consultant paediatrician, said: “We’ve had young people say they are depressed, anxious, afraid to go out, months after the event. We’ve also had staff being hugely traumatised.”
Last month, during the debate in Parliament on making home abortions permanent, Christian MP Fiona Bruce said the rules had already led to “unacceptable health and safety risks to women and girls”.
She added that she was “notably concerned about the greater risk of coercion by a partner or family member, where the doctor does not see the woman in person”.
Caroline Johnson MP, a former paediatrician, highlighted that the legislation allowed children to take the pills at home, and said that if the issue had been debated properly, “we would have stipulated that children under the age of 18 should not be receiving abortions over the telephone”.