The number of abortions performed in England and Wales has risen significantly since the government relaxed regulations so that women could terminate their pregnancies at home during the pandemic.
Figures from the Department of Health and Social Care show that 109,836 abortions were performed in the first half of 2020 – an increase of 4,296 on the same period last year. The figures follow a record high of 200,608 abortions for the whole of 2019.
The rise comes after the government temporarily allowed “DIY” abortions, up to the tenth week of pregnancy, at home during lockdown.
The measures allow women to receive both pills required for a termination at home after a phone consultation rather than a face-to-face clinic visit. The first pill, mifepristone, effectively starves the unborn baby by blocking the effects of the progesterone hormone, inducing a miscarriage. The second drug, misoprostol, is taken up to two days later and induces labour.
Previously, the first pill would be taken under medical supervision.
The scheme has caused controversy, however. A leaked “urgent email” sent by a senior midwife at NHS England and NHS Improvement expressed concerns about the “escalating risks” of allowing at-home abortions. It said that two women had died after taking abortion pills at home and that a murder investigation had been launched into the death of a baby born alive after a woman took the pills when 28 weeks’ pregnant.
Right to Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson called the figures a “national tragedy”.
“Every one of these abortions represents a failure of our society to protect the lives of babies in the womb and a failure to offer full support to women with unplanned pregnancies,” she said.
“This year we’ve come together as a nation and made great sacrifices to protect the vulnerable from Covid-19. Sadly, at the very same time as protecting one group of vulnerable people, we as society have also ended thousands of young vulnerable lives through abortion.”