Calls to end DIY abortions after NHS data reveals risks to women

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Latest statistics from NHS Trusts across England have shed light on the risk to women of having DIY abortions at home. 

A new report published by public health researcher Kevin Duffy shows that over 10,000 women have needed medical treatment since the introduction of the pills-by-post service at the start of the pandemic.

The data was obtained through Freedom of Information requests from 85 NHS Trusts. 

Between June 2019 and May 2021, some 5.9% of women needed hospital treatment for a failed abortion, with 3% of these requiring surgical treatment to complete the abortion. 

Figures further showed that 2.9% received treatment at an NHS hospital for haemorrhaging. 

Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, said: “A failure rate of 1 in 17 women needing to go to hospital due to DIY home abortion is unacceptable.

“Imagine the scrutiny other medical treatments and services would face if they were sent through the post and had such a high failure rate of women ending up in A&E.”

Christian Concern said the data underscored the risk to women using the pills-by-post service.

 “Abortion centres, however, do not warn women of this significant risk of requiring hospitalisation,” it said.

“Instead, vulnerable pregnant women are left, without proper medical supervision, access to crucial ultrasound scans or after care support, to traumatically cope on their own until they are forced to turn to the NHS for help.” 

More than 200,000 women have had a medical abortion at home since the introduction of DIY abortions by Matt Hancock last year. 

The pills by post service allows women to take both abortion pills at home following a phone consultation with an abortion provider.

The service was intended to be temporary, covering only the duration of the pandemic, but the government is considering making it permanent.

Earlier this year, the government ended a public consultation on the plans but it has not yet published its response. 

Duffy is calling upon the government to end the pills by post service.

“This data reveals the disturbing truth of abortion care during the pandemic that has not been reported to the government by providers,” he said.

“Before the approval for use of misoprostol at home and then the approval for both pills at home, these women may not have needed this hospital treatment. They would have had their abortion in a clinic and may not have been discharged by the abortion provider before being assessed as complete.

“This investigation exposes the reality of what thousands of women experiencing crisis pregnancies have been through during the pandemic. It demonstrates clearly what needs to change and why the government must not make DIY home abortion telemedicine permanent. The time to end it is now well overdue.”

Questions have been raised over the safety of pills-by-post after reports of a surge in 999 calls by women using the service. 

When asked whether it had an estimate of women hospitalised after taking the pills, former care minister Helen Whately said over the summer that the government does not hold this information centrally.

In another response, Whately said that a form submitted by abortion providers at the time of dispatching the pills in the post asks them to note complications, but she admitted that this data would be “limited as not all complications will be known to the practitioner at the time the form is submitted”.

Christian Concern said the lack of data had “left the government essentially blind to the extent of the complications experienced by women and consistently unable to provide accurate guidance on safety”.

“There is a serious issue with how the [Department of Health and Social Care] gathers complication data and therefore how it draws conclusions to shape policy on this issue,” said Williams.

“Such powerful drugs are not usually approved for use in the home with anything like such a high risk of requiring hospital treatment. Abortion pills should be no exception.

“For the sake of women’s safety and long term physical and mental health, the Government should stop the approval of pills-by-post abortion which was intended as an emergency measure in any case.

“It is not fair on women to be left to self-manage abortions at home with a significant risk of failures requiring hospital treatment, and often surgery. Parliament must act to protect thousands of women from harm.”

Source: ChristianToday.Com by Staff writer

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