A FEW years ago a woman in her 20s entered a Marie Stopes abortion clinic in London under immense pressure from her boyfriend and her family to get rid of a child they did not wish to see born. The woman’s parents travelled from up to the capital from rural Kent to accompany her to make sure she ‘got it done’.
She was required to take two pills as part of the medical abortion. The first, mifepristone, would cause the placenta to separate from the uterus and a subsequent miscarriage. The second, misoprostol, taken 24 to 48 hours later, would have made her womb contract and expel its contents.
The woman had swallowed the first pill but, having grave doubts, she refused to take the second even though a nurse at the clinic harangued her, telling her repeatedly (and inaccurately) that if she did not see the process through her baby, even if it survived, would be hideously deformed. ‘I said, no, I’m not taking it,’ the woman recalls, and told the nurse that she needed more time to think about her options.
Knowing that her parents would be furious and not wishing to face them, she sneaked into the gardens of the clinic through the kitchen. ‘There was no way out of that area apart from climbing over a (2.5m) fence – which I did,’ she says. ‘I had help from a workman next door because there were spikes on the top of the fence. As soon as I was out of there I ran.’
Then she contacted pavement counsellors who had handed a leaflet to her on her way in. ‘They just talked to me, listened to me,’ she said, and when she noticed bleeding the following day they paid for her to see a private doctor in Harley Street. He saved her daughter by writing a prescription for progesterone, a naturally-occurring hormone which is harmless to women, and which nullified the effects of the first pill.
The pavement counsellors and their allies within the medical profession turned out to be truly ‘pro-choice’ as well as ‘pro-life’ because were among the few people the woman encountered who were willing to allow her to exercise the decision she consciously made to continue with her pregnancy.
Today, however, it is now illegal for pavement counsellors to congregate outside that and other abortion clinics because local authorities have capitulated to the demands of the big abortion providers and imposed 200-metre buffer zones wherever they can.
Until last week, it also looked certain that any doctor who offered women Abortion Pill Reversal (APR) treatment would be treated with a heavy hand, facing disciplinary action by the General Medical Council that would restrict their activities under threat of being struck off the Medical Register.
This followed a complaint from abortion industry about two doctors whom it discovered were writing prescriptions for progesterone to women who did not wish to complete the abortions they had initiated.
One was Dr Dermot Kearney, a cardiologist from Newcastle, and the other was Dr Eileen Reilly, a Glasgow-based obstetrician. They made their details available online when they became aware of women looking for support after changing their minds about abortions midway through the process.
They knew that APR treatment in the US had led to healthy births in 55 per cent of cases, more than double the 20 per cent of births that go to term when a woman takes the first pill but does not take the second (the advice given by the NHS to women who change their minds).
During lockdown, when it became the norm for such pills to be posted out to women wishing to end their pregnancies, Dr Kearney saw a surge in inquires, and was eventually receiving three calls a day from those requesting APR.
He helped 32 women reverse their abortions by the time the GMC stopped him from offering the service and called him before a ‘fitness to practise’ panel to answer ten allegations arising a complaint against him made by MSI Reproductive Choices (the name Marie Stopes now uses to distance itself from its founder, a eugenic racist who admired Hitler).
They included the claim that he was using unlicensed medication, which is rich indeed given that misoprostol – the second pill of the process – is not a drug licensed for use in abortion.
His response was to take the GMC to the High Court, with the help of the Christian Legal Centre, but the regulator relented before the case was heard. GMC caseworkers dismissed every allegation against him and he is now free to continue to offer the service to women who request it.
The GMC stated: ‘The case examiners have considered the information provided by MSI Reproductive Choices, openDemocracy, Safe Abortion Action Fund UK and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and decided to conclude this case with no further action.’
It was indeed a good day for the right to choose.
‘I have been the victim of a co-ordinated campaign by senior figures in the abortion industry who have been determined to prevent women in urgent need from accessing abortion reversal treatment,’ said Dr Kearney afterwards. ‘The truth about abortion reversal treatment must now be told and medical professionals who are able and willing to support women with the treatment should be allowed to do so without fear.’
Perhaps this case demonstrates yet another collapse of liberalism into authoritarianism, the replacement of open disagreement, inquiry and discussion by bullying, coercion and paternalism. When there is only one choice, there is no choice at all.
It may also indicate that the abortion industry is out of control. It is a racket, bloated on taxes channelled through the National Health Service (the Charity Commission rebuked Marie Stopes for paying one senior executive a salary of £434,500 in 2018, up from his £300,000 earnings of the previous year) and it is dictating public policy.
It is indulged even though abortion clinics regularly come to the attention of the Care Quality Commission over matters of patient safety. Most recently these have included three clinics in Merseyside, Middlesbrough and Doncaster run by BPAS, a chain which performs about 70,000 of the UK’s 200,000 annual abortions each year. In November, they were put into special measures for six months with the threat of enforced closure unless they improved their safety standards, a number of them centring on a lack of patient consent.
The ‘DIY abortion’ scheme that ran during the pandemic also raised issues of consent. It was so open to abuse, in fact, that the Government has finally agreed to wind it down completely by August. Its own report on consultations with medical professionals found that the service increased the risk ‘from those who sexually exploit children, manipulate the system or force their victims to obtain an abortion’. So why a delay given that the safeguarding of children is at stake? Why not end it now?
As Dr Calum Miller, a medical doctor and a research associate at the University of Oxford, put it: ‘Coerced abortion is a serious human rights abuse that the Government and doctors have a duty to prevent, not facilitate.’
Instead of protecting and enriching the abortion barons, it is about time the Government found the courage to stand up to them.
Safety of women and children and freedoms of association and speech are infinitely more important than what goes into their pockets.
So too is the right of women to choose to change their minds about going through with abortion, if that is what they want to do.