Home abortions should continue after lockdown

Relaxing the rules on abortion pills shouldn’t be just a temporary measure.

Ella Whelan
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The Covid-19 pandemic has called into question many things about the way we live and work. And in some cases, the negotiations people have had to make with the restrictions of lockdown have revealed opportunities for positive change.

Abortion care is one of these areas. Thanks to the need to limit contact time between doctors and patients, the government has permitted Early Medical Abortions (up to 10 weeks) to be carried out at home. This procedure involves taking two pills, 24 to 48 hours apart. Before the pandemic, women were required to take the first pill in a licensed clinic in the presence of a healthcare professional, while the second dose could be taken at home. There is no medical necessity for this – it is simply a legal requirement.

However, after making a hash of the announcement of this welcome development for women (there were two u-turns on the decision in the space of a few days), the government insisted that the relaxing of the rules around where a woman can ingest an abortion pill were only temporary. As lockdown eases, pro-choice campaigners must make the case for telemedicine in the case of early abortions to continue.

Labour MP Diana Johnson – backed by a long list of medical professionals and expert bodies – tried to introduce a new clause into the Domestic Abuse Bill currently making its way through parliament to ensure that women in abusive relationships can continue accessing early abortion care via telemedicine after the lockdown measures are lifted. A victim of domestic abuse is often unable to act or move freely without fear of violence and so travelling to a clinic to access abortion services confidentially can prove impossible. A second pro-choice clause was introduced to repeal sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Persons Act, decriminalising abortion up to 28 weeks.

Both attempts have somewhat failed – clause 28 was retracted for fear it wouldn’t pass, and clause 29 was rejected by the speaker because it was deemed not relevant enough to domestic abuse to fit within the scope of the new bill. However, the government has promised a public consultation on whether the lockdown measures around telemedicine should be made permanent. This is a real opportunity for pro-choice campaigners to make a lasting change to abortion rights. There have been several heroic attempts by MPs like Johnson and others to introduce legislation which could give women the freedom to determine what choices they can make about their own bodies. Almost all have been previously pushed aside or shot down by a government that is clearly nervous about having a debate about bodily autonomy.

When opportunities like this arise, we must aim high. It’s true that women suffering from domestic abuse and violence are less likely to be able to get to a clinic for an early abortion without risking their safety. But all women should be able to access abortion services without the need to prove that doing so would mean risking their lives. It’s easy to forget that most abortion services take place in separate, licensed clinics, meaning that many women living outside of cities might find it difficult to make the journey to a clinic for early abortion care. It’s also true that some women can experience cramps and even bleeding after the first pill is taken. The British Pregnancy Advisory Service has often pointed out that some of their clients report beginning their abortions on the train or bus home. Allowing women the freedom to access safe and legal medication in the comfort and safety of their own home is a no-brainer – whether they are victims of abuse or not.

And we shouldn’t stop at simply tweaking the practicalities of where women should be allowed to make decisions about their bodies and pregnancies. This pandemic has posed a challenge to the country – to come up with a ‘new normal’ for society. Those of us who believe in women’s liberation should make bodily autonomy a central demand for this new world. As women, we are still bound by archaic and illiberal laws which prevent us from enjoying the same freedoms as men when it comes to making decisions about our bodies. It’s time for the provision of abortion to be decriminalised altogether.

Ella Whelan is a spiked columnist and the author of What Women Want: Fun, Freedom and an End to Feminism.

Listen to Ella’s new BBC Radio 4 programme, Girl Power RIP.

Picture by: Getty.

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Comments

Ian Grattidge

17th July 2020 at 10:13 am

Just as today we accept that the slave trading of 200 years ago was an abomination and affront to human dignity so I believe that in 100 years when historians look at the story of our times they will look at the abortion statistics and ask themselves “How could they have done that? What were they thinking?”

Alan Wren

17th July 2020 at 1:33 am

Does this article count as “woke”?

What if a Republican woman in USA was to declare this article Woke PC-garbage?

What if a Trump and Brexit fan wanted to argue that this article was written by a servant of Satan, part of the war on our traditional culture and values?

jacquline fariendess fariendess

12th July 2020 at 1:15 pm

A pregnant woman is by definition someone who has a fetus growing inside her. Whether or not the fetus should be HERE► Click For Full Detail.

dom torato

12th July 2020 at 7:46 am

A pregnant woman is by definition someone who has a fetus growing inside her. Whether or not the fetus should be HERE► Read More

George Whale

12th July 2020 at 7:28 am

@JamesConnor “What a pity Doria Ragland and Thomas Markle didn’t have access to a home abortion pill.” This raises a legal conundrum: at what age can a foetus/ embryo be a victim of a hate crime?

Cathy Archer

11th July 2020 at 4:11 am

It never ceases to be utterly chilling to see one of these women who are completely brainwashed to believe the falsehood that her baby’s body is “her body”, and that when she slaughters her child she is “making a decision about her own body”. Such brainwashed women are arguably the most grotesque creation of the modern world. More grotesque than any regime, any other genocidal system or genocidal maniac of modern times. Excuse me while I vomit. I’m proud to say I have detected women illicitly selling abortion pills online and successfully reported them to police. Utterly proud. I’d do it again. Abortion is this modernity’s slavery, and future generations will study the tone-deaf repugnance of this murderer’s article and many others.

Michael Thompson

12th July 2020 at 5:38 am

You don’t know it is a ‘baby’ since you cannot accurately define what a baby is. Until you are absolutely sure it is a baby then your arguments are just emotional manipulation. Pregnant women need facts on which to base their opinion and not just emotional rants.

Ken Morgan

12th July 2020 at 5:55 am

You said “pregnant women”. A pregnant woman by definition has a small human being, or a baby, either way, a small human being, inside her. Opponents of slaughtering these human beings are not out to “argue” the merits of not murdering the young ones these days, we are long past that. We just quietly await POWER to use the state to permanently coerce you to cease the slaughter. There is no “debate” or “argument” with the garbage who support this abortion holocaust. You are not our equals, not our friends, no more worthy of detailed, carefully worded “argumentation” than Ted Bundy or any other murderer is. Don’t get confused for a moment and think the pro-infanticide forces are “equal” to the decent people.

Michael Thompson

12th July 2020 at 6:38 am

A pregnant woman is by definition someone who has a fetus growing inside her. Whether or not the fetus should be considered to be human is the point of the debate. You use the word human without being able to define what it means to be human. This is very dishonest. It attempts to use language over which there is much disagreement and to use it as if there is agreement. There is not and until such time as you can come up with a definition of human to which everyone agrees then you have no valid argument.

Ken Morgan

13th July 2020 at 8:09 am

A biologist would identify the remains of the slaughtered little ones of the death mills/abortion mills as a member of the human species homo sapiens. Not only are you beneath contempt and a supporter of the abortion holocaust, you’re fundamentally a denier of the humanity of those whom you seek to exterminate, which is of course a trait that can be seen in all genocide supporters. Count yourself lucky that you’re protected (currently) from those you don’t consider human taking vengeance upon you. If a born-alive abortion survivor were to grow up and seek you out and treat your life with as much contempt as you show for the little ones, that would be justice in my book, I’d have NO problem with it.

Mor Vir

10th July 2020 at 4:26 pm

D/mn cheek!

George Whale

10th July 2020 at 12:26 pm

Widening access to home-based infanticide – this is real progress, let’s keep ‘aiming high’!

Michael Thompson

12th July 2020 at 5:34 am

Let’s deal with issue not by reason and logic but by using emotional words like infanticide. You cannot prove that a fetus is like an infant or that it has the same rights as an infant but you sure can try and manipulate the debate by using emotional language.

That is really aiming high!

George Whale

12th July 2020 at 7:17 am

Feticide, infanticide – I suppose it depends how old it is when it’s killed and flushed.

Michael Thompson

12th July 2020 at 9:38 am

No, it depends on how human it is.

George Whale

12th July 2020 at 9:55 am

My mistake, I assumed growing human bodies to be 100% human.

Michael Thompson

12th July 2020 at 11:34 am

No, you assumed that a fetus is a growing human body. You cannot prove it is human unless you can define what it means to be human and so far you have not done that.

jamie murray

13th July 2020 at 5:04 pm

Everybody has a worldview [ a religion if you like, whatever your worldview is, it wont be half as hard headed and “reason” based as you like to think it is, it will contain many elements of faith or the unknown] and yours quite clearly rejects God as creator, as is your right. My worldview is that God is creator [please spare me the “Which God”, “flying spaghetti monster nonsense” etc, i’m capable of debating and rebutting all day long, as well as pointing out the numerous holes in Neo Darwinian theory etc, but that is not the point of my reply, i’m merely setting out our completely differing a priori starting points which will impact our posistion on myriad subjects.] and yours clearly isn’t. That is why i deduce a human is a human at conception, Gods word says so, science and biology say so and common sense says so, a foetus is just a clinical name to mask the reality that abortion is infanticide. You may continue the pretence that it’s “just chemicals/collection of cells etc all you want, but it doesn’t change reality.
Off course it’s an emotional subject, infanticide should always be emotive and should never cease to be.
Whether it angers you or not , whether you believe it or not,and even if it leaves you studiously unconcerned, one day you will have to give an account to God for what you say about His unborn and helpless creations being nothing more than a foetus worthy of murder if they’re an inconvenience!

Michael Thompson

18th July 2020 at 2:32 am

@Jamie Murray
Yes, but a pregnant woman has to make a decision based on facts and it is not a fact that God exists it is only a matter of opinion. If she is of the opinion that God does not exist then your arguments are a waste of time as far as she is concerned since she does not accept your basic premise. You have to come up with some evidence beyond doubt that a fetus is a living human being and you haven’t been able to do that.

jamie murray

19th July 2020 at 10:56 am

@Michael Thompson-I am under no obligation to prove anything re Gods existence and nor will i try, you are well aware of his existence and all the shaking your fist at him or “clever” rispostes to me wont make the slightest difference to the fact that you [me and all humanity] will,upon death have to give an account on everything in our lives, including our opinions and thoughts about the value and sanctity of human life. I wont change my mind on this and neither will you, so i consider this my final post to you on the matter as any further correspondence would just be a waste of time for both of us.

Mor Vir

10th July 2020 at 11:08 am

All ‘rights’ are made up and accorded by the society. OK, having pointed that out…

This debate seems to be about convenience and the spin of the law.

I am not aware that any women cannot get abortions within 24 weeks. The UK still likes to pretend that abortion is not free on demand within 24 weeks, that it is not simply a matter of choice, that two doctors must agree that a pregnancy will do more mental or physical harm to the woman than an abortion. In reality no women are refused an abortion within 24 weeks, they are all given one, free on demand.

So why is the pretence maintained? Who knows.

Anyway, every woman can get an abortion within 24 weeks, and there does not seem to be many women who want one later and cannot get one – in cases of danger to woman’s life, fetal abnormality, ‘grave risk’ to mental or physical health. I am not aware of any women who want one later on being refused.

So, it is just a matter of convenience, of getting the state and its pretences, its limitations out of way, so that women can have an abortion when they want, where they want, without all of the state pretence and nonsense.

Have I missed something?

Mor Vir

10th July 2020 at 11:35 am

So why is the pretence maintained?

I suppose that the state does not want to admit that it lied and maintained a pretence about abortion being limited.

It does not want abortion to become a live controversy.

It wants to maintain the sop of pretence to the Christians.

‘If it ain’t broke then don’t fix it.’

Alex Ander

10th July 2020 at 11:07 am

I saw an article a few months ago about a lady who changed here mind about having an abortion at the very last minute. I think she was even in the medical facility having pre-med.
Can’t remember what or why she changed her mind, but she was interviewed 2 years afterwards having gone ahead and subsequently giving birth to a baby boy.
The degree of emotion with this story was overwhelming – the sense of joy & happiness having her son, and the sense of horror as to how close she got to not having him.
Did she regret having him? Obviously not – it was the absolute high point of her life.
Would she have regretted it if she’d aborted him? Absolutely!

It’s fundamentally irresponsible not bringing to light the other sides/ angles of the topic of abortion – to simply portray it as only about womens rights & liberty is dishonest, manipulative and coercive. Women are being led up the proverbial garden path on this issue, and as the person comments below, there are women with huge regrets having gone ahead and had abortions.
To suggest this is subject only about human rights is clearly bollocks for anyone with half-a-brain & even just a minor inclination for critical thinking.

Mark Pearce

10th July 2020 at 10:53 am

There is, I believe, a fundamental difference between “bodily autonomy” and acts that impact another person (i.e. the baby/foetus). Outside the field of abortions, the law has increasingly moved to recognise a foetus as another legal person (see, for example, the Marshae Jones case) and therefore it is not, in my view, correct to say that bodily autonomy is synonymous with abortions. There are thousands (perhaps more) of cases of babies being born before the 24 week general abortion timeframe (in the UK) who have survived and it is, therefore, wrong to say that a foetus is not a “person” until it is born.
As such, I believe that some criteria should be applied before allowing a person to have an ‘at home’ abortion. What these criteria should be is unclear. I agree entirely that a person should not have to evidence domestic abuse in order to obtain such a kit but I also believe they shouldn’t just be available for ‘Amazon’ delivery.
Abortion is a highly emotive topic and I feel that, as a man, I am always going to be on the back foot because it is a decision/situation I will never face but an irreversible decision of this magnitude needs a checks-and-balance system otherwise it will simply become another, more brutal, form of conception.

Lyn Keay

10th July 2020 at 4:27 pm

It is an issue of bodily autonomy. After all we don’t have the right to live off of other people’s bodies for 9 months. All blood & organ donations from living donors are purely voluntary. The steps to recognise foetuses a legal person are regressive. In a time where we are being reminded of slavery all the time, let’s not make unwilling pregnant women the slaves of their foetuses.

jamie murray

10th July 2020 at 6:36 pm

As myself and other posters on here have said, it’s a very emotive subject, but did you really compare a baby growing inside a woman [sorry i wont use the language foetus, to clinical,it’s a small and helpless human] to an “entity” living off the mother and compare it with voluntary donors?
And it’s “regressive” to give the unborn baby the rights of a human? Away from the womens rights, feminist rhetoric about bodily autonomy [lets be adults here,outside of rape and a small percentage, lets not quibble about exact % of failed contraception, all women know how babies are made so why are they not responsible for birthing them?] can you convince yourself in the small dark hours that a “foetus” isn’t really human?!
There’s a reason the pro abortion lobby use clinical language when describing unborn babies and abortion practitioners tell women not to look at the foetus in the toilet before “it’s” flushed away, as using honest straight forward terms might bring home the severity of the horror that “civilised” countries celebrate as a womans right!
I am well aware of the heartbreak and brokenness surrounding this issue and as i stated elsewhere i am not judging anybody or pointing the finger, “judge not lest ye be judged” etc and i am not deliberately wanting women who’ve had abortions to feel guiltier than many undoubtedly do, but however unpalatable it may be to hear, everything i’ve said is true and it is scandalous that we allow this so casually and as in Ireland recently, actually celebrate the killing of babies in the womb as though some great injustice has been amended. As for the slavery allusion, where can i go with that one? I will let others comment on that as i can’t believe you’d make that equivalence!

Alex T

11th July 2020 at 11:38 pm

If someone runs over a pregnant woman in a traffic accident, he is charged with TWO counts of vehicular manslaughter in most countries. If the woman is the child’s slave (and the child is only a “fetus” that has no right to life), given that slaves were usually considered half a person, wouldn’t the logical conclusion be to charge people of HALF a case of vehicular manslaughter in sentencing? The whole comparison is insane and ridiculous, and it’s coming from an ideology that considers it acceptable for people to decide who has a right to live and who doesn’t. Society is trying to have it both ways, but such blatant hypocrisy will sooner or later end up in dire, unintended/unpredictable consequences. You can ignore reality, but you cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality. If men can be told they have no rights/choice about parenthood, and should have kept their pants on if they don’t want to pay the price for their sexual activity, I don’t see why society should go as far as to murder children to rid women of the consequences of their actions. Either both should have the right to reject parenthood, or neither of them. It’s ridiculous to have a situation where men are forced to pay for 20+ years even if they are tricked into unprotected sex (“I’m on the pill”), but women even get to kill babies so they don’t have to live with the consequences of irresponsible/careless sexual activity.

Michael Thompson

12th July 2020 at 5:24 am

@Jamie Murray

It is only an emotional topic because people like you do not base their arguments on facts and reason. What is wrong with calling it a fetus? Does this make it less human than calling it a baby? The argument should be based on what it is in fact and not what you call it. It is in fact a fetus and there cannot be any doubt about that since that is what we all agree is the definition of a fetus. Whether or not it is a ‘baby’ or is human is not agreed upon and you are very dishonest to base your argument against abortion on opinions that can never be proven but which rely on emotion to make a case.

The decision about whether it is a baby or human has to be made by a pregnant woman. She cannot sit on the sidelines while the fetus grows inside her. It is a decision you will not have to make.

Without facts which back up your contention that it is a baby or human your arguments are worthless and you have no right to condemn those who have to make a decision out of necessity without any facts as to whether or not the fetus is human or a baby.

Elizabeth Allen

12th July 2020 at 5:44 am

For goodness sake it’s biological fact that it is not your bodily autonomy, it’s two bodily autonomies. Two different DNAs. Two different bodies. At least base the article on science not dogmatic assertions and slogans. Early feminists were btw anti-abortion, it is only later that it became part of feminist dogma. I expected better from Spiked, which I have come to rely on as a source of unbiased commentary, not a pile of unscientific assertions.

jamie murray

10th July 2020 at 9:42 am

The way some of these women talk about their right to legally kill their unborn children as though somehow any limits on this barbaric act [look up the reality of what happens in an abortion, only the hardest of hearts could fail to be moved] is a reduction of some human right is astonishing. It is an extremely emotive subject that’s caused immeasurable heartache for many people and i’m not here judging or pointing the finger, i just find the “it’s my body and my right” and “we want the same rights as men when considering what to do with our bodies” arguments to be of the most shallow and cruel. I mean for a start, men don’t carry around a living human in their bodies so that’s a false equivalence anyway.
This Ella, is why feminism is unrepresentative of large swathes of women, it come across as extremely solipsistic in almost all [i am being generous with “almost”] it’s arguments and will usually have a very narrow narrative on most subjects it addresses.
Like all the columnists on here you’ll read the comments section, so why don’t you write an article, for balance, on some women who are pro life or who have had abortions and regret it and want to encourage other women to go through with the pregnancy?.

Alex Ander

10th July 2020 at 10:54 am

Well said!

James Conner

10th July 2020 at 6:48 am

What a pity Doria Ragland and Thomas Markle didn’t have access to a home abortion pill.

Mor Vir

10th July 2020 at 9:05 am

Meghan has done nothing wrong, certainly not to warrant such a comment.

When is Andrew going to speak to the F bI?

Mark Pearce

10th July 2020 at 11:00 am

I fail to see what the point of this comment is other than to appear an unpleasant person.

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