UK doctors warned against reporting illegal abortions

UK doctors warned against reporting illegal abortions (Towfiqu barbhuiya/Pexels)

(Mercator) The UK’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has informed its members that they should not report illegal late-term abortions to the police, even if the baby’s safety is at risk.

The RCOG guidance states: “Do not call the police if the woman divulges, or you are suspicious, that she may have sought to end her own pregnancy unless she has given explicit consent to do so”.

Further on, it says: “In considering whether there is a valid justification for breaching confidentiality to protect the safety of others, the ‘safety of the fetus’ is not a valid reason because in law the fetus does not have personhood status.”

Between January and June 2022, abortion pills accounted for 86 percent of all terminations in England and Wales, with 54 percent of these taking place outside of a clinical setting; however, the pills cannot be legally prescribed after the 10th week of pregnancy.

Tweet This: From Jan-June 2022 abortion pills were 86% of all abortions in England/Wales, 54% outside a clinical setting; pills aren't legal after 10wks

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The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) says that according to official data published last year, there is a 33 percent complication rate for women 13 to 19 weeks pregnant, increasing to 48 percent for those aborting pregnancies over the 20-week mark. As SPUC points out, the RCOG guidance not only ignores the safety of the baby in the womb, but the safety of women potentially coerced into abortions at a late stage of pregnancy.

Despite this, as noted by former manager for Marie Stopes Dr Kevin Duffy, the RCOG guidance warned that “a healthcare worker must ‘justify’ any disclosure of patient data or ‘face potential fitness to practice proceedings’”, alleging “that they are under no legal obligation to contact the police following an abortion” – and it was delivered by Dr Jonathan Lord, who is also medical director for MSI Reproductive Choices (formerly Marie Stopes International).

Dr Duffy says that the “problem” is one of Lord’s “own making”, as “his collaborators have enabled this increasing number of women using abortion pills later in their pregnancies, beyond the ten-week legal limit. Some of the women that he points to as having been investigated and prosecuted, will no doubt have obtained the abortion pills from his own organisation, MSI-RC, using its telemedicine and pills-by-post process.” He maintains: “There is a remarkably simple and straightforward solution to the trauma caused by the rising number of police investigations – rescind the legal approval for abortion by phone and pills-by-post, reinstate a mandated in-person medical consultation before the abortion pills are prescribed.”

This might seem obvious, but since then, in a piece entitled “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, Dr Duffy notes that The Guardian -- that dogged investigator of social problems – has pondered “what might be causing the recent increase in prosecution cases being brought against women suspected of an illegal abortion”, while going on to opine that “it’s fair to say no one really knows for sure why”. However, “in the very next part of the same sentence” they admit that “the increased use of pills obtained to do abortions at home during the pandemic has perhaps brought a level of awareness to the potential of illegal abortions happening”.

Dr Duffy agrees: “In the 20 years up to 2021, just three women were prosecuted, increasing to six in 2022. Of course, these are still very small numbers, equivalent to as few as 1-in-20,000 of women using the abortion pills. The reason for the increase in 2022 … telemedicine abortion and pills-by-post.”

He continues: “Prior to the March 2020 covid-related emergency approval of pills-by-post, all women wanting an abortion needed to first have an in-person medical consultation, an effective measure to ensure the legal prescribing and use of the abortion pills. Now, that protocol has been removed, meaning that the abortion provider has no way of ensuring that the pills they prescribe will be used as intended and below the legal limit of 10-weeks gestational age.”  

But despite the medical disaster-waiting-to-happen that is the pills-by-post system, those at the very top of the medical profession have claimed that home abortions are even safer than clinic abortions: former RCOG President Edward Morris called for home abortions to continue after Covid, insisting that they were “one of the few success stories of the pandemic and should remain in place” because “allowing the use at home of the two pills required for an early medical abortion has created a safer, more effective, and – crucially – a kinder service for women.”

Of course, the “kinder” and “safer” abortion pill – which often is not successful -- has allowed top medics to shirk responsibility for the care of pregnant mothers and their babies, even while GPs have been told to return to face-to-face appointments in the interests of patient safety.

And rather than protesting the risks of abortion pills, the RCOG has protested about the dangers of trying to reverse their effects -- despite plenty of evidence of the efficacy of the reversal process.

The RCOG has claimed that there is “very little evidence to show that a treatment with progesterone will reverse an abortion, and what this is doing is providing false reassurance to women that this is a possible option – which is very distressing for the women involved”.

Meanwhile, doctors offering the controversial service have been treated as a danger to women, not least Dr Dermot Kearney, president of the Catholic Medical Association, whose “abortion rescue therapy” has helped many British women to maintain their pregnancies with progesterone, a similar approach to that taken to threatened miscarriages. In contrast, despite Dr Kearney’s real successes, the RCOG regarded the life-saving therapy as controversial.

It is indeed telling that while the distressing outcomes of the abortion pill have been virtually ignored by the media, more opprobrium has been heaped on those attempting to reverse it than those dishing it out with little regard for its multiple risks; that far more concern is shown about attempts to save babies than to kill them; that it is not the abortion pill that is seen as controversial but attempts to reverse its deadly effects.

Interestingly, the RCOG previously issued guidance stating that “doctors should offer ‘chestfeeding support’ to transgender men who give birth, under the first medical guidelines for trans patients”. According to best practice guidelines, the RCOG also proposed “overhauls of cancer screening, childbirth and fertility treatments to make them more inclusive”, with the helpful explanation that “[a] transgender man is assigned as female at birth but now identifies as a male, though he may have female genitalia enabling childbirth”.

We are repeatedly told to “follow the science”, but it seems that obstetricians and gynaecologists cannot tell the difference between men and women; however, this move is characteristic of the many professional organisations that have been taken over by wokethink, regardless of the outcomes for those they claim to serve. Even if women manage to avoid being killed by abortion pills, it is a far from cosy experience to dispose of an aborted baby at home; but at a time when we are told to protect the environment by not putting a baby wipe down the toilet, apparently it is quite safe to put a baby down the toilet.

But the term “home abortion” is essentially misleading, since there is no guarantee that the babies will be aborted at home. And even if they are, no guarantee that the remains will remain there. Perhaps it is also no coincidence that in recent years there have been disturbing reports of dead babies being abandoned in public places; even more disturbingly, the reports never mention whether the child appeared to be full-term or premature.   

Even if these babies were not victims of the abortion pill, in today’s atmosphere of callous disregard for the health and welfare of babies, some insist that women should be allowed to abort these non-persons up to birth and dispose of them with no legal consequences, with MPs campaigning for all out-dated legal restrictions on abortion to be abolished.

Numbers of abortions have rocketed since the introduction of pills-in-the-post, and the Government is strangely reluctant to release the latest figures or indeed to inquire into the rising incidence of complications.

Given their track record on prioritising ideology over mothers’ and babies’ health and safety, the RCOG’s latest move is shocking, but not surprising. Terrible things happen every day, but the even more terrible thing about this issue is that nobody seems to notice – but just in case they do, they will be warned against reporting it to the relevant authorities.

Perhaps the final irony is that in 1967 abortion was partially decriminalised for the sake of a few hard cases, allegedly to stamp out illegal abortion. Now the very organisation which one would presume is devoted to defending and nurturing life is more interested in stamping out life. And if anyone should show more than a passing interest in the subject, the message is clear: “Don’t ask, don’t tell”. 

Editor's note: Ann Farmer writes from the United Kingdom. This article by was originally published on Mercator under a Creative Commons Licence and is reprinted with permission. Heartbeat International manages the Abortion Pill Rescue® Network (APRN) and Pregnancy Help News.

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