Coronavirus: Health secretary challenged over lockdown 'DIY' home abortion rules

·2-min read

The decision by the health secretary to allow women to carry out medical abortions at home during the coronavirus crisis is being challenged in the court of appeal today.

A medical abortion involves taking two tablets, usually about 48 hours apart. Until Matt Hancock changed the rules, the second pill had to be administered in a suitable medical facility attended by qualified staff.

Under the updated guidance, women who need a medical abortion up to ten weeks are able to hold a telephone or online consultation with a doctor. They are then able to take both abortion pills at home.

The change in the rules is being time-limited for two years or until the coronavirus crisis is over.

Mr Hancock's decision is being challenged by the evangelical advocacy group Christian Concern, which argues that this amounts to self-termination, a de facto "backstreet abortion" and exactly what the 1967 abortion act was designed to end.

Christian Concern also claims that Mr Hancock did not have the authority to change the law and that could only be done by an act of parliament.

Chief executive Andrea Williams believes "DIY terminations" show a lack of "kindness and compassion" for women.

She said: "These are not insignificant decisions, it's not caring to a woman to have a phone call with her, to send her a pill, no follow up, no talking through."

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However Sam, who doesn't want to give her full name, had two abortions in her early twenties and believes rules allowing women to have abortions at home should become permanent.

Sam argues that issues like childcare, working from home, and reduced transport impact women's ability to get to a clinic and making treatment more accessible "can only be a positive thing".

She said: "It's clearly still something I think about a lot even a few years later, but I want to make it easier for other women to have (an abortion) and to talk about it.

"It's a really difficult position to be in, whatever position you are in no one else can understand because it's your body and your mind."

Christian Concern has said they will present evidence to the court from their own undercover investigation which suggests the rule change has led to the illegal circulation of abortion pills in the past few months and has harmed patients.

The department for Health say they will not comment while proceedings are ongoing.

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