Most GPs concerned about coercion and abortions after legal limit with pills-by-post service

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A majority of GPs are concerned about possible coercion and abortions taking place past the legal limit as a result of the pills-by-post service. 

Regulations were relaxed by the Government after the start of the pandemic so that, following an e-consultation, women could have abortion pills sent to them in the post by abortion providers up to 10 weeks' gestation.

The Government is consulting on whether to make the changes permanent, but pro-life campaigners warn that the lack of medical supervision puts women at unnecessary risk, and that gestation dates cannot be verified. 

Their concerns about the pills-by-post service are now backed up by a new Savanta ComRes poll of 1,000 UK GPs, carried out on behalf of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) and Christian Concern. 

It shows that 86% of GPs are concerned about the risk of women being coerced into having an abortion and the potential for having a medical abortion past the legal limit of ten weeks into gestation.

More than eight in ten GPs (87%) worried about women being at risk of unwanted abortions resulting from domestic abuse where a doctor is not able to see the pregnant woman in-person.

Three-quarters (74%) of GPs polled were concerned about the distress caused to women by disposing of their terminated pregnancy themselves, either into a toilet or sanitary pads.

Eight in ten GPs (82%) feared abortion pills could be falsely obtained for another person with a telemedicine abortion appointment where the doctor has not seen the woman in person.

Commenting on the poll findings, Dr Gregory Gardner, GP and honorary clinical lecturer at the University of Birmingham, said: "Having recently encountered a case of patient identity fraud, this poll reflects significant concern among GPs of the vulnerability of women seeking abortion advice by telemedicine.

"The potential for coercion and medical error is real, and properly acknowledged in the poll by a large majority of GPs."

With abortion clinics open again in the current lockdown, SPUC and Christian Concern question why the pills-by-post service remains in operation. 

Andrea Williams, the chief executive of Christian Concern, said: "These figures show clearly that medical professionals working on the frontlines are deeply concerned about pregnant women's safety.

"The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and abortion providers have cynically jumped on the public health crisis to push through their radical pro-choice ideology at the expense of women.

"The DIY abortion policy has conclusively been shown to carry the exact risks Lord Bethell cited to Parliament when promising not to enact the policy just under a year ago.

"We have also shown that holes in the reporting data have led to the number of complications being under-reported.

"MPs and the government need to listen to GPs and stop believing everything that idealists in the abortion industry are telling them."

John Deighan, Deputy CEO of SPUC, said: "These results are a searing indictment of a rushed, badly-thought through policy. The Department of Health is clearly and completely out of touch with GPs' opinion on this issue. This reckless policy must end.

"The risks of coercion are obvious, as are the mental health implications for women of having to dispose of a terminated pregnancy themselves.

"Despite the rise in domestic violence during Covid-19 lockdown the government has chosen to abandon woman to DIY abortion, with no safeguarding to protect them from coercion or abuse.

"The sad reality is that many more woman will, likely, now be coerced into abortion from an abusive partner."