Pro-life campaigners condemn medical body's support for abortion pills at home

(Photo: Unsplash/HuChen)

Pro-life group the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) has condemned a leading medical professional body's support for women taking abortion pills at home.

At present, women having an abortion early on in their pregnancy are allowed to take the second pill, misoprostol, at home, but the first one, mifepristone, has to be taken at a clinic. 

In its new report, called Better for Women, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) said that the current definition of "at home" is too narrow.

The RCOG says that the Department of Health and Social Care should broaden the definition to allow women to take mifepristone at home, as well as misoprostol.  

It argues that this would be more comfortable and convenient for women having an abortion. 

The report also backs changing the rules so that women can be given consent to take both pills in their own home after speaking to a doctor online through Skype or FaceTime instead of having to meet them face-to-face. 

The RCOG said this would make it possible for women who received consent online to go and pick up the abortion tablets from their local pharmacy. 

Professor Lesley Regan, president of the RCOG, said: "Our Better for Women report raises many important issues around women's healthcare, including easy access to contraception, abortion and fertility services.

"In 2018 the Department of Health and Social Care greatly improved women's experience of abortion care when it allowed women to take misoprostol, the second drug used to affect an early medical abortion, at home.

"Since then women no longer have to suffer the distress or embarrassment of bleeding and cramping pain during their journey home.

"In 2019 the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) recommended greater use of online and telephone consultations to streamline the provision of abortion care.

"To support this new best practice guidance, the Department of Health and Social Care should also consider allowing women, after their assessment, to take mifepristone in the comfort and convenience of their own home.

"This would improve the accessibility of early medical abortion care for women, particularly for those who live in rural areas or those with child caring commitments."

Antonia Tully, campaigns director at SPUC, said the proposals were misleading and would put vulnerable women at greater risk.

"We are appalled by the proposed regime for providing abortion pills to women," she said. 

"It completely neglects the seriousness of abortion, reducing it to a tick-box exercise. Women and society need to take the issue much more seriously.

"We have already been concerned about the role the RCOG has taken as a cheer-leader for abortion and this latest proposal has the hallmarks of abortion propaganda rather than serious medical advice.

"The RCOG seems determined to deceive women into thinking that abortion pills are safe and simple. They are neither.

"They are powerful drugs designed to kill an unborn baby. This policy will drive vulnerable women, often coerced into abortion by abusive men, even further under the radar."

She expressed concern that women would be put at increased risk of adverse health effects from taking both abortion pills at home, including excessive bleeding and infection. 

"Studies show the harmful physical consequences of abortion pills. Our concern is that these will be increased when women are given these pills to take away from a medical setting," she said. 

She added: "In our view the RCOG is playing fast and loose with women's health."