DIY abortions were introduced by the Government on 30th March 2020, in response to concerns that women might have to endure a ‘forced pregnancy’ and give birth to unwanted babies during the coronavirus lockdown: ‘DIY’ because for the first time since the need for backstreet abortions was removed in 1967 with the passing of the Abortion Act, the Government changed the regulations to permit home abortions – literally, in the backstreets, front streets and side streets. No matter what street you live on, you can make a simple phone call and confirm that you are less than 10-weeks pregnant (which may be a lie); order self-administering abortion pills, wait a day for them to arrive, open the packet, swallow two pills immediately, another two a bit later, and, hey presto, all foetal life extinguished and evacuated. Literally, a Do-It-Yourself home abortion: no interfering doctors, no in-person consultation, no invasive medical checks or assessments; just a swift prescription of Mifepristone and Misoprostol over the phone, and then the passing of the unborn child at home without direct medical supervision.
Abortion must be hard enough at the best of times in hospitals or abortion clinics approved by the Secretary of State, but to go through the whole process alone at home can be profoundly traumatising:
‘You do pass a lot of blood and I was warned I might see the foetus, so I sat on the toilet and didn’t look. I ended up lying in the bath trying to keep the pains at bay and I didn’t get much sleep that night. It was a lot worse than I’d expected. The pain, the physical process was horrible. Although I didn’t want to continue the pregnancy, I hated the thought of just flushing it away. Once it was all over with, however, I felt it was the right decision.’
The change to permit the home to become an approved place for abortion was made without any public consultation, parliamentary scrutiny or debate. It was also made in haste and with some confusion: the announcement was initially withdrawn because it wasn’t authorised; then Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Parliament that no changes were being made to the regulatory restrictions on approved places; and then, inexplicably, they were made.
No Bishops have raised any concern – in Parliament or on Twitter. There have been a few questions from MPs, but these followed the High Court challenge brought by Christian Concern. Sir Edward Leigh MP: “To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether his Department undertook a risk assessment before issuing the March 2020 Approval of a Class of Places approval enabling at-home abortions.”
Health Minister Helen Whately responded:
Powers under the Abortion Act 1967 were used to temporarily approve women’s homes as a class of place where both abortion pills can be taken for early medical abortion following careful consideration of the risks and issues. In particular account was taken of social isolation and social distancing advice, that services were closing and appointments being cancelled. The measures were put in place to ensure that the vast majority of women and girls could continue to access abortion services whilst limiting COVID-19 transmission. In addition, access to abortion is an urgent matter as the procedure’s risk increases at later gestations and there are legal gestational limits for accessing services. This change was made on a temporary basis only and is time limited for two years, or until the pandemic is over.
Except they won’t be temporary: BPAS is already lobbying for ‘Class of Places’ to extend to the comfort of your home, and only Christian Concern is concerned. Only Christian Concern is concerned that a 40-minute phone consultation is insufficient to determine that a woman is no more than 10 weeks pregnant. Only Christian Concern is concerned that a woman might in fact be 20 or 24 or 28 weeks pregnant and prepared to lie to secure an abortion. Only Christian Concern is concerned that vulnerable women may suffer profound emotional and psychological stress throughout the whole isolating process and beyond. Only Christian Concern is concerned that a woman might be being coerced by an abusive partner into taking the pills.
Isn’t it rather important to know whether a woman is being slapped and punched and might be force-fed the pills and locked in the bathroom until it’s all over?
Despite the reasonable concerns expressed by Christian Concern, in particular that the Secretary of State had no authority to change the regulations without the approval of Parliament, they lost their case in the High Court: “For the reasons we have given the proposed grounds for judicial review in this case are not properly arguable and, accordingly, we refuse permission to bring this claim for judicial review.”
This judgment was sufficiently concerning for Christian Concern to go to the Court of Appeal.
They won their appeal, and are now proceeding toward judicial review. Lord Justice Lewison ruled it is “arguable” that the Health Secretary Matt Hancock exceeded his powers under the 1967 Abortion Act when he designated “a pregnant woman’s home” as a permissible place for abortion. He further concluded that Christian Concern’s argument “has a real prospect of success”, so the Court of Appeal will now hold a public hearing to decide whether Matt Hancock’s decision should be quashed.
But only Christian Concern is sufficiently concerned to be leading the campaign against DIY abortions, which must be costing them £100,000s.
And only Christian Concern is sufficiently concerned with what ought to concern everyone.
Andrea Williams, Director of Christian Concern, says:
Abortion numbers are at record highs. The government is making every effort to liberalise abortion to the point of decriminalisation. The Westminster government has forced abortion onto Northern Ireland. It is equally clear that the Department’s regulations on DIY abortions, being brought under the guise of being necessary due to coronavirus, were never meant to be temporary. I cannot overstate the importance of this appeal.
We now have a genuine opportunity to expose the lies and dubious practices of the abortion industry. In doing so, we hope that some lives will be saved, and mother’s protected. What is truly shocking is the unfettered and inappropriate level of access to government that the abortion lobby has.
Thank God for Andrea Williams.
But why is it left to her to function as a bishop?