Many of you will know that during the first covid lockdown the government put in place a temporary, two-year measure to enable women or girls to take both sets of the abortion pills at home having only had a telephone conversation and seeing no one in person. Abortion by pills, as opposed to surgical abortions, is known as a medical abortion and prior to this, women were allowed to take the second set of pills at home only once they had attended an in person appointment and taken the first set of pills in a ‘clinic’ setting. There is a real possibility of this becoming permanent so the government is asking the public for their views before a decision is made. Some of you will have already responded to the government’s consultation on this and you may have taken advantage of one of the two online briefings to help assist you in this, arranged as a collaborative effort by the UK pro-life movement. If you haven’t done this yet we urge you to do so as soon as possible before the cut-off date of Feb 26th 2021.

March for Life UK had the opportunity to talk with Dr Eileen Reilly, an obstetrician/gynecologist working in Scotland, to discuss her concerns regarding this proposal. One of the first issues Dr Eileen raised was the lack of an ultrasound scan being offered to any women enquiring about a home abortion. Dr Eileen explained how a scan is vital for confirming what stage of the pregnancy a woman is at. From her experience she was aware of how ‘A lot of women are unsure about their dates, maybe their cycle is irregular or they’re taking contraception, or they might just forget when their last period was’ she related. ‘The scan will confirm the gestation, whether it’s an ectopic pregnancy (where the developing embryo implants outside of the womb, usually in one of the fallopian tubes) or a multiple pregnancy. I don’t know how a woman can consent to a procedure’ said Dr Eileen ‘when she doesn’t know what’s going on in her womb’.

It’s not uncommon for a pregnant woman to change her mind about abortion if she finds out she’s expecting twins or triplets. One such woman ‘Anna’, told March for Life UK how her previous pregnancies had ended in abortion but when she accidentally became pregnant again and was told it was twins she felt this was so special she decided to keep them both in spite of the challenge being twice what she was expecting. Had ‘Anna’ been thinking of having a DIY abortion she would have never been offered a scan and so never found out she was pregnant. 

There is also the additional concern over retained ‘P.O.C’ (‘products of conception’ a euphemism used in an attempt to dehumanise the child or parts of the child which may be left inside the mother’s uterus). If a woman is unknowingly pregnant with twins and takes the abortion pills at home, she may erroneously believe she has completed an abortion when in fact she hasn’t because the second child is still inside her.

Dr Eileen expressed concern over the risk of undetected ectopic pregnancies which could rupture if undiscovered, causing catastrophic bleeding.

She went on to also highlight the risk of women being coerced into an abortion by a boyfriend/husband or other family member which would be more difficult to detect via a telephone consultation. Dr Eileen told us how coercion could be affecting around 70-80% of women considering abortions so this is a hugely important factor to be aware of, along with the possibility of domestic abuse, rape or incest being covered up.

Another point which Dr Eileen made was that of a woman holding on to her abortion pills once she had received them and taking them past the 10 week cut-off date. She explained that it’s likely there will not be any check-ups so who’s to know if or when the woman takes the pills. She relayed the shocking story of a case in her own hospital where a woman held onto tablets for two months and then took them when she was 18-19 weeks pregnant, and delivered at home. ‘That was a traumatic experience for both her and her family’ She told us.

Dr Eileen reminded us all that it is ‘crucial’ that we respond to this government consultation. ‘They wouldn’t be asking your opinion if they weren’t going to take it into consideration’ she told us. ‘Talk about backstreet abortions’ Dr Eileen said, ‘It’s like going back to that. Pushing it into the home. Pushing it into unsafe areas and doing a disservice to women.’

For the full video of our discussion with Dr Eileen Reilly click the video below.

To respond to the government consultation on DIY abortions click here

To watch a video made as a collaborative project by the prolife movement on how to respond to the consultation (step-by-step instructions) click here

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