Government still considering evidence on home abortions

The rules were changed at the start of the pandemic so that women could have abortions at home.(Photo: iStock/Liudmila Chernetska)

The government has said it is still considering "all evidence" on whether a temporary measure to allow abortions at home during the pandemic should be made permanent.

'DIY' abortions were introduced in March 2020, allowing women to be sent both pills in the post after a phone or e-consultation with a clinician. 

The government was asked in the House of Lords this week whether the change would be made permanent. 

Replying on behalf of the government, Lord Kamall, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, said, "We are carefully considering all evidence submitted to the Government's consultation on whether to make the temporary measure allowing for home use of both pills for early medical abortion permanent." 

He said that a decision would be made before the end of March - the same month as the emergency Covid-19 legislation that allowed home abortions to be introduced is set to expire.

Lord Kamall added that the intention had always been for home abortions to be temporary.

"This was always intended to be a temporary measure; that was always the intention," he said. 

Speaking in the debate, Baroness O'Loan pointed to disturbing figures from a recent study by Kevin Duffy, a former employee of Marie Stopes International - now called MSI Reproductive Choices.

The study, based on data from freedom of information requests, found that over 10,000 women who took at least one abortion pill at home in 2020 needed hospital treatment for side effects. 

Baroness O'Loan said the figures suggested "a serious and disturbing lack of understanding of the dangers of the telemedical abortion policy".

Responding to her concerns, Lord Kamall said: "We have looked at whether [DIY abortions] should continue to be permanent or whether it should be temporary and revert, and we are still weighing up the difficulties of the decision." 

Catherine Robinson, spokesperson for the campaign group Right to Life UK, said the figures showed DIY abortions to be "dangerous" for women.

"The decision to make 'DIY' home abortions legal was a terrible, undemocratic decision when it was first made," she said.

"The last two years have confirmed how dangerous this kind of abortion is and shows a total lack of regard for women's wellbeing, not to mention the wellbeing of unborn children."