In Journal of Medical Ethics, researcher questions true motives behind UK emergency DIY home abortion legislation

By SPUC—the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children

In a blogpost for the Journal of Medical Ethics, Dr. Ilaria Bertini,​Research Fellow at Bios Centre, London, has questioned the motive behind the introduction of emergency DIY [Do It Yourself] home abortion legislation by the British government in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, while also citing three major “drawbacks” to DIY abortion.

On March 30, the British government introduced legislation allowing DIY home abortion in response to the challenges of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As reported by SPUC, regulations have now been expanded to allow medical abortion consultations to take place over the phone or via video call, and women may now take both abortion pills at home.

According to the government and pro-abortion groups, such measures have been introduced to limit personal contact and the spread of the Coronavirus.

However, in a blogpost for the peer-review Journal of Medical Ethics, Dr. Bertini, a research fellow at Bios Centre, London, has voiced her skepticism towards the move, arguing that such legislation is dangerous to women’s physical and mental well-being. She questioned the true motives behind the legislation, citing three major “drawbacks” of DIY home abortion.

Three major “drawbacks” to DIY home abortion

Firstly, Dr. Bertini writes, allowing home abortion leaves women in an even more vulnerable state, since some abortions are linked to abusive partners who might pressure women to terminate an unwanted child.

Stuck in quarantine, women who might otherwise have found refuge from such abuse by visiting a doctor in person may be pressured to abort at home instead.  As Dr.  Bertini writes, under such circumstances of isolation, the “potentially abusive situation where she may be under pressure to abort may remain entirely hidden.”

Secondly, Dr. Bertini comments, “the extraordinary circumstances” of the current pandemic crisis – especially “the lack of social interaction, the fear posed by the present situation from both a health and an economic perspective, the impossibility of planning ahead and the related difficulty of spending an unprecedented amount of time in the home setting”, etc. – “can be a major cause of stress and anxiety.”

This would naturally affect the decisions of women making an important decision, such as whether to have an abortion. Accordingly, “limiting any discussion with healthcare professionals to a video or phone call can leave the pregnant woman isolated in a mentally and physically very stressful situation,” she writes.

Thirdly, because of the current pressure on the NHS [National Health Service] and emergency services, women who take abortion pills at home and consequently experience an emergency will “be much less likely to receive a prompt response.”  Dr. Bertini points out that “such emergencies can be very serious if the pregnant woman is in fact more than ten weeks pregnant when she takes the pills.” This is a very serious risk, she warns, since, “with the new regulations in place, it is also no longer possible to access a pre-abortion ultrasound scan to accurately date the pregnancy and ensure that it is developing inside the uterus”.

“A decision informed by a desire to put in place a long-advocated procedure”?

Finally, Dr. Bertini highlights that in other matters relating to women’s mental health, in particular, such organisations as the Royal College of Midwives have shown due consideration. For example, they recognized “the great importance of the presence of birth partners (with the exception of partners with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection) inside labour and birth rooms.” Therefore, “the question arises as to whether the new regulations on medical abortion are the result of a careful assessment of the interests at stake or the effect of a decision informed by a desire to put in place a long-advocated procedure.”