Artillery Row

Banned from reversing abortions

If abortion providers really are “pro-choice” then why are they stopping Dr Kearney?

During the first lockdown, abortion providers lobbied hard to force through their preferred policy of abortions by post. For the first time, a woman would be able to take two abortion pills at home, never seeing another human face.

The government resisted their demands initially. Lord Bethell gave the reasoning:

We believe that it is an essential safeguard that a woman attends a clinic, to ensure that she has an opportunity to be seen alone and to ensure that there are no issues. Do we really want to support an amendment that could remove the only opportunity many women have, often at a most vulnerable stage, to speak confidentially and one-to-one with a doctor about their concerns on abortion and about what the alternatives might be? The bottom line is that, if there is an abusive relationship and no legal requirement for a doctor’s involvement, it is far more likely that a vulnerable woman could be pressured into having an abortion by an abusive partner.

Nevertheless, the government gave in to the abortion providers, using the 1967 Abortion Act — once intended to stop backstreet abortions — to enable backroom abortions instead.

In stepped Dr Dermot Kearney. Some women had taken the first pill, mifepristone, and instantly regretted their decision. Scouring the internet to see if they could still keep the baby, they ended up talking to Dr Kearney, once President of the Catholic Medical Association (UK). He prescribed progesterone, a hormone used to treat natural miscarriages, in an attempt to cancel the effects of mifepristone. Women who accessed this help testify to the personalised care Dr Kearney gave. One woman, who has since given birth to a healthy baby, said: “Dr Kearney monitored my health throughout the weeks of treatment and even after. He really cared about my situation and made me feel like I had support if I needed.

If MSI really believed in women’s choice, they would be lobbying to provide this treatment themselves

This is in stark contrast to the “support” offered by abortion providers over the telephone, which typically consists of a tick-box exercise of form filling and a box with abortion pills and powerful painkillers.

Now, one abortion provider, MSI Reproductive Choices is complaining that women were given a choice. They complained to the General Medical Council and successfully had Dr Kearney stopped from helping similar women, after a hearing before the Medical Practitioners Tribunal where they sought but failed to have him suspended from practice.

It is true, as they complained, that the prescription of progesterone was “off label” — just like the tens of thousands of misoprostol pills sent out to women wanting to abort. Prescribing drugs for “off-label” use is commonplace. It means that the doctor has decided that the drug, which has been approved for one specific condition, will also be helpful for another condition. Drug manufacturers are not allowed to advertise drugs for off-label use, but doctors are allowed to use their discretion to prescribe drugs for off-label use. This is what Dr Kearney was doing.

Dr Kearney never guaranteed results. But of the 100 women he and another UK Doctor gave abortion pill reversal treatment to, 12 have given birth to healthy babies, with many others still pregnant. This is a clear improvement on doing nothing or taking the second pill.

If MSI Reproductive Choices really believed in women’s choice, they would be lobbying the government for more freedom to provide this treatment themselves. If they really cared for women, they would be criticising cheap and cheerless pills by post schemes and instead providing ultrasound scans to more women to check whether medical abortion is safe in their case. They wouldn’t be heralding that DIY abortions are safe, despite 36 women calling 999 per month after taking abortion pills.

I don’t think Dr Kearney is acceptable collateral for their “pro-choice” ideology

But Dr Kearney enables women to reconsider their decision, saving the lives of babies in the process. If more women knew that the first pill wasn’t necessarily the end of the story, how many more might change their mind? And if more did, would it become clear that many women are choosing abortion without truly giving informed consent? The abortion lobby has consistently resisted attempts to ensure women are given other options and information when considering termination.

I don’t think that Dr Kearney, and the women he has helped, are acceptable collateral for their “pro-choice” ideology. That’s why it’s essential to get behind him, and alongside these women, to make sure that abortion pill reversal is available to women who want the treatment.

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