Thank you for contacting me about proposals to make permanent the measures enacted during the pandemic to allow so-called at-home or telemedical abortions.
I opposed the introduction of the temporary measures allowing 'at home' or 'DIY' abortions and remain unpersuaded that this is a course of action which should be pursued during the present crisis, let alone permanently and will support all viable efforts to end this practice. Consequently, I signed EDM 2 (NB: I cannot now sign EDMs as I am a Government and to do so might breach the ministerial code.)
I am clear that close attention needs to be paid to the provision of support and counselling for women who feel they need to seek abortions.
A consultation has recently been held on the home use of both pills for early medical abortion up to 10 weeks gestation. The Government is currently reviewing the evidence received and will publish a response in due course. You can find more information on that here:https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/home-use-of-both-pills-for-…
Reports of post-ten week/problems with home abortions: I have been distressed to read news reports of cases where abortions had been sought and enacted after the ten week legal limit for taking the medicines at home, and have caused further illness and even death. I will continue to support all efforts to ensure safety is the paramount consideration in considering any amendments to regulations, however temporary.
Enough evidence exists for serious concern over a number of issues:
Complications: incidents of haemorrhage, sepsis and retention of products of conception following use of abortion have emerged in response to FoI requests. It would appear that DHSC data seriously underreports such incidents. Moreover, remote consultations make the detection of complications less likely and are less reliable channels for determining each woman's state of mind and the degree to which she is choosing her course of action independently.
Inadequate safeguards: there are very serious concerns over whether abortion providers are taking enough care over their duty to carry out basic checks before sending out abortion pills. In particular, there is doubt over whether they are always doing enough to verify women's identities, ages and gestational dates. I understand that errors arising from inadequate checks can contribute to medical complications and to women taking the pills after the ten-week limit has expired.
Coercion: a danger inherent in the procedures involved in remote consultations and prescriptions is that abusers and those who seek to coerce women into abortions they do not want to have will be present but undetected throughout and that there is no viable safeguard against such abuse. The Government, in the person of Lord Bethell, made this point very effectively:
Do we really want to ... remove the only opportunity many women have, often at a most vulnerable stage, to speak confidentially and one-to-one with a doctor about their concerns on abortion and about what the alternatives might be? The bottom line is that, if there is an abusive relationship and no legal requirement for a doctor’s involvement, it is far more likely that a vulnerable woman could be pressured into having an abortion by an abusive partner.
I will continue to monitor this issue and the debate surrounding it.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP