The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has said that ‘women in England should be allowed to take pills to induce an abortion at home without the supervision of a doctor’, and ‘are urging the Health Secretary to change the rules to bring England in line with Wales and Scotland, where the procedure is allowed at home’ (‘Top medics call for change to rules on home abortions’, Telegraph, July 10, 2018).
It is misleading to state that ‘an estimated one in three women have an abortion before the age of 45’ when in fact a smaller proportion of girls and women have several abortions and most have none at all; however, official statistics in 2016 showed that 21.7% of all conceptions in England and Wales led to legal abortion, therefore in one of the wealthiest countries in the Western world, a fifth of all unborn babies are destined never to be born.
It is true that the abortion pill is ‘most effective’ for early abortions, but there is a risk of incomplete abortion and other problems, leading to surgical abortion; in the case of ectopic pregnancy, the terrible experience of taking the abortion pill is followed by a life-threatening emergency. Agonising pain and heavy blood loss are of course considered normal, and it seems the ROCG has nothing to say about the psychological consequences of women passing a tiny human being, about whose disposal they are equally silent.
They maintain that ‘current rules’ are ‘forcing women to visit a clinic or hospital to undergo an early medical termination’, which ‘effectively “punish” those seeking legal abortion’. Perhaps they also think it would be a ‘punishment’ to insist that women return to the hospital or clinic with the remains of their aborted baby, and instead would advise women to dispose of them at home. But if we are advised not to flush sanitary towels or even wet wipes down the toilet, what about human remains?
At present, ‘the rules’ governing such matters are enshrined in the 1967 Abortion Act, which states that abortions may only be carried out on premises approved by the Ministry of Health – premises which can be inspected by the Care Quality Commission. According to previous CQC inspections, Marie Stopes abortion clinics have been ordered to be closed down following gross failures of care putting women at risk. They were even more careless of the ‘products of conception’, discarding foetal remains in overflowing bins. Allowing women to have abortions outside the clinic setting will simply deprive them of health and safety oversight.
The RCOG may believe that women taking abortion pills are choosing to end unwanted pregnancies, but even if they cannot see the potential for abuse, various reluctant fathers have been found guilty of ‘administering’ these pills to their partners without their knowledge.
In Thailand the world has been watching in awe as a global team of rescuers has fought valiantly to save the lives of 12 young boys and their football trainer trapped in flooded caves for over a week; meanwhile an ongoing campaign seeks to criminalise offers of help to women approaching abortion clinics. In one case trying to save children is considered praiseworthy; in another, such attempts are treated as dangerous and opposed with the full force of the law.
At the same time, organisations that should be defending the right to life of unborn children are discussing how to deprive even more of them of their lives, at the same time putting the lives of their mothers in jeopardy – as if it is some kind of human right to abort a baby in unsterile conditions with nobody to help. Far from a step forward, the RCOG would take women back to the days of the backstreet abortion.
-Ann Farmer is a guest blogger. She is an independent author and researcher in Essex, England.