The Government has confirmed that it will consult on making permanent the emergency laws allowing women to take abortion pills without medical supervision.
The current rules were brought in just days after Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there would be no changes to abortion provisions. They allow women to take both the pills required for an abortion at home, following just an e-consultation or a telephone conversation with a doctor.
This was set to last for two years, or until the end of the coronavirus pandemic, whichever came first. But Lord Bethell, Minister for Innovation, has confirmed that there will be a public consultation “on permanent home use of both pills for early medical abortion”.
The intention to hold a consultation on allowing the temporary changes to remain in place was put forward in July by Minister for Women, Victoria Atkins.
Since the regulations were introduced, a reported 90,000 women have procured the pills.
In May it was revealed that there were at least nine cases of women taking the pills after the ten-week limit. One baby died after its mother took abortion pills while 28 weeks pregnant.
Dr. Helen Watt, a Senior Research Fellow at the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, has said that rather than making the change permanent, home abortions need to stop.
Writing for Roman Catholic website The Tablet, Dr Watt pointed out that home abortions have already had ‘chilling’ consequences: “Some women were admitted to hospital with major resuscitation for major haemorrhage; others were admitted with ruptured ectopics.
“Some women delivered babies at up to 30 weeks gestation, months after the recommended limit for home abortion. Very disturbingly, in one case where the baby may have been born live, the police are investigating a possible infanticide.”
Dr Watt also highlighted the “horrible, tragic, needless deaths” of two women, one of whom was found dead in her home, and the other who died of sepsis in hospital.
“Neither the women’s deaths, nor harms to other women, can be dismissed merely as sad events for which no-one is morally responsible.”
She said the pills were “provided with state blessing, by those aware of the risks, with the brutally explicit aim of ending unborn lives”.