Disappointment as MPs vote to make 'DIY' home abortions permanent in England

(Photo: Unsplash/Jurica Koletić)

Pro-life campaigners have expressed disappointment after MPs voted on Wednesday to make the pills-by-post service for home abortions permanent in England.

The policy was introduced as a temporary measure after the start of the pandemic and the government originally announced that the service would be wound down at the end of August.

The issue was sent to the Commons after the House of Lords passed an amendment to the Health and Care Bill introduced by Baroness Sugg that sought to make the policy permanent.

Following a parliamentary debate on Wednesday, MPs backed the amendment by 215 votes to 188.

Alithea Williams, Public Policy Manager at the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), called it "a shameful day for Parliament". 

"It is disgusting that a healthcare bill has been hijacked to push through something that is not healthcare by any definition," she said. 

"In approving this dangerous policy, MPs have ignored evidence of its dangers, and they have ignored women.

"It was bad enough that this policy was introduced as a temporary measure during a public health emergency, but for MPs to actually vote for it, without even that bad excuse, shows how little they actually care about the health and wellbeing of women." 

Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, said that the vote in Parliament sent the message to women facing a crisis pregnancy "that this is the best we can offer you – to have a traumatic and unsafe abortion home, often alone, without any clinical examination or private in-person conversation".

"This vote will have dire consequences for women, who will not receive the proper medical support they need and more easily be coerced by partners and family members," she said.

"As Christians , we must redouble our efforts to care for the women harmed by this decision, offering the love and compassion of Jesus to all its victims."

Parliament has backed the amendment to the Health and Care Bill despite results from the Department of Health and Social Care's consultation showing overwhelming support for the decision to wind down the service, with 70% of respondents saying that the policy should end immediately and only 22% saying it should remain permanently.

Catherine Robinson, spokesperson for the Right To Life UK campaign, said that removing the requirement for an in-person appointment with a medical professional would put thousands more women at risk.

She pointed to a November 2021 study suggesting that over 10,000 women had to receive hospital treatment after using the pills-by-post service between April 2020 and September 2021.

"By removing a routine in-person consultation that allows medical practitioners to certify gestation and recognise potential coercion or abuse, 'at-home' abortion has presented serious risks to women and girls in abusive situations," she said.

"It has allowed severe complications to occur, as well as abortions beyond the legal limit, as abortion providers currently cannot ensure the pills are taken by the intended individual within the appropriate time frame."