The law on abortion in England and Wales is routinely broken. Claims that clinics have stacks of pre-signed abortion forms are widespread (the law requires two doctors to sign), and one of the legal reasons for abortion – that it would injure the woman’s mental health – is routinely stretched to include almost anything. Lockdown rules, however, have exposed the reality of UK abortion provision.
Previously, terminations could only take place in hospitals or approved abortion clinics. But under the new policy introduced for lockdown, a single doctor can prescribe pills over the phone enabling women to perform their own abortion at home without direct medical supervision. Anti-abortion activists have caught providers on tape saying what most people knew: any reason for abortion is, to providers, valid.
‘Saskia’, an undercover activist, phoned the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), one of the largest providers of abortion, to get abortion pills by post because she didn’t “want to look pregnant on holiday” and was told by BPAS that keeping her beach body was a valid reason to terminate, but the call handler would need to “attach what you tell me to a legal reason.”
All 20 callers involved in the investigation, organised by Christian Concern, were successful in receiving abortion pills from BPAS despite using fake names, dates of birth and gestational dates, including Saskia, the woman who told the call handler she “wanted to really focus on this holiday and just have a good time.”
Abortion remains illegal in England and Wales unless specific grounds are met but pro-life campaigners say sending pills by post has dramatically increased the danger of coerced or involuntary abortions (the risk of which having previously been an argument why pills weren’t freely distributed like this). Today there will be a judicial review at the Court of Appeal on the government’s decision to allow DIY abortions during lockdown.
Andrea Williams, the chief executive of Christian Concern, said:
This is what the abortion industry wants. Abortion pills on demand, no questions asked. So it is sadly not a surprise that they are prepared to give out abortion pills for a bikini body. The life of the unborn child is worth less than a bikini selfie.
I’ve written previously about the Government’s determination to impose on Northern Ireland abortion rules that its devolved assembly wouldn’t accept. Clearly those hoping this government will bring abortion legislation more in line with public opinion will be sorely disappointed (almost a third of people in the UK want an almost complete ban).
It’s increasingly hard to claim with a straight face that rules need to be loosened, given the current situation after the Lockdown liberalisation. But it’s also likely that the Government will relax abortion laws rather than tightening them up. Abortion on demand, if not yet explicitly legal, is already an open reality.
Enjoying The Critic online? It's even better in print
Try three issues of Britain’s newest magazine for £5Subscribe