DIY abortion campaign launched in England and Wales
3 April 2018
Sophie Walker of the Women's Equality party says treating miscarriage and chemical abortion differently is a "double standard"
SPUC is challenging this policy in Scotland
The Women's Equality Party has launched a new campaign calling for the second pill in a medical abortion to be available to be taken at home.
The campaign centres around an open letter from Claudia Craig, a 23 year old woman who had an abortion in Scotland, to the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, and the Welsh Health Secretary Vaughan Gething. She describes how the abortion began on her taxi journey home from the clinic, and argues that she should have been allowed to take the pill at home. Her letter also highlights what a "medical" or chemical abortion actually involves.
Reality of "medical" abortion
"One year ago I took Misoprostol to terminate a pregnancy," she writes. "By law I had to take the pill at the hospital. I had no idea how quickly it would take effect. I was lucky I had enough money for a taxi - it was a 15 minute drive, but in those 15 minutes I turned pale green and could feel the process starting.
I was counting down the seconds until I arrived home. I collapsed almost as soon as I got inside and started vomiting and miscarrying on the bathroom floor."
Extreme abortion campaign
inews reports that the campaign "builds on the We Trust Women campaign launched by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (Bpas) to decriminalise abortion across the UK."
It also follows the decision of the Scottish Government to allow the second abortion pill (misoprostol) to be taken outside a medical setting.
SPUC Scotland has launched a judicial review challenging the policy, with the hearing due to take place on 14-15 May. Questions in the House of Lords last week revealed that the Scottish challenge could have huge implications for policy across the UK, with the the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care, saying that the Government will "look closely at developments in these legal proceedings."
Illegal and dangerous for women
SPUC Scotland's legal challenge to the Scottish Government's policy rests on the fact that it contravenes the 1967 Abortion Act in two ways. Firstly, the home is not an approved place for abortions to take place under the Abortion Act, and secondly, that it demands the presence of medical, nursing or clinical staff during a procedure.
"Our legal advice is clear, and we are confident that the Scottish Government’s decision to give women the abortion pill to take home is not in keeping with the law," said John Deighan, CEO of SPUC Scotland. However, he said, the primary concern is the damage allowing home abortions will do to women. "We believe the government scheme amounts to authorising backstreet abortions. And that is not being alarmist it is a simple fact. The potential health risks for mothers and their babies are horrific. There would be no medical oversight and this development will result in dreadful threats to women’s health."
Philippa Taylor of the Christian Medical Fellowship has detailed some of these threats, and how allowing misoprostol to be taken at home will send abortion back to the backstreets. She also challenges campaigners conflation of treatment for natural miscarriage with medical abortion.
Not the same as miscarriage
Writing in the Independent, Claudia Craig argues that misoprostol is given to women who are naturally miscarrying to be taken at home, and there is no reason for women seeking abortion to be treated differently. Sophie Walker of the Women's Equality Party also describes it as a "double standard".
However, Philippa Taylor explains that the precise time and method of taking misoprostol (which expels the dead baby) after the first pill, mifepristone (which kills him/her) is crucial in avoiding complications. In the case of natural miscarriage, only misoprostol is taken, as the baby is already dead.
News in brief: