United Kingdom

Abortion charities are caught mailing 'DIY' termination pills without making basic checks

Campaigners have warned that women's lives could be at risk after two of Britain's leading abortion charities were caught sending out so-called 'DIY' termination pills in the post without making basic checks.

At the start of the lockdown, the Government controversially relaxed rules so that abortion pills could be mailed to women who were up to ten weeks pregnant after a telephone consultation, rather than having to go to a clinic.

Ministers insisted the temporary measure would be safe as two doctors had to sign off the prescription, but an investigation involving mystery callers found:

Campaigners have warned that women's lives could be at risk after two of Britain's leading abortion charities were caught sending out so-called 'DIY' termination pills in the post without making basic checks. Above, file photo of a foetus at 24 weeks, the limit for abortion, which activists fear is being flouted

At the start of lockdown, the Government relaxed rules so that abortion pills could be mailed to women who were up to ten weeks pregnant after a telephone consultation, rather than having to go to a clinic. An investigation found seven women received pills in the post after providing bogus details to Marie Stopes UK (file image) and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service

Seven women received pills in the post after providing bogus details to Marie Stopes UK and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS).

Christian Concern, which commissioned the investigation, said it feared the system makes it easier for women to carry out an illegal abortion at home, even beyond the 24-week limit for terminations. 

Police recently launched an inquiry after a 28-weeks-pregnant woman in the Midlands got pills through the post from BPAS.

BPAS is investigating eight more cases of women who were sent the pills despite being more than ten weeks pregnant, but last night defended the scheme and described the investigation as a 'meaningless exercise'.

Christian Concern, which commissioned the investigation, said it feared the system makes it easier for women to carry out an illegal abortion at home, even beyond the 24-week limit for terminations. (Stock image)

Labour MPs will tomorrow use a Commons vote to seek to make DIY abortions permanent, but Christian Concern said the investigation's findings showed it was unsafe.

Its chief executive Andrea Williams said: 'We are alarmed at the lack of simple checks at these abortion charities before they send out powerful drugs. 

'Women who take these drugs well into their pregnancy are putting their lives at risk or could cause serious injury to themselves.'

All seven callers lied about which GP practice they were registered with, and one of the women reduced the length of her pregnancy from nine weeks to seven midway through a call without causing concern.

Last night, BPAS spokeswoman Clare Murphy said: 'It is appalling that at a time when services are under intense pressure, anti-abortion campaigners would undertake a meaningless exercise to prove that a woman who says she needs an abortion is able to access the help she needs. 

'How else should it be? We are shocked, but sadly not surprised, that these campaigners… would want to remove this lifeline.'

Jonathan Lord, medical director at Marie Stopes UK, said: 'We trust women to give us honest information and in our experience the only people who abuse that system are radical anti-choice organisations desperate to restrict access to legal abortion care.'

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