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999 Calls Skyrocketed after Abortion Pills by Post Legalised in UK 

There has been a worrying surge in the number of 999 calls from women taking abortion pills at home, ambulance chiefs in the UK have reported. The significant jump in emergency calls, revealed in a recent Freedom of Information request, comes after the NHS controversially started sending out abortion pills by post in March 2020.

In a development pro-life campaigners have termed “deeply concerning”, emergency call-outs related to the pills have doubled in some UK regions. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, women seeking an abortion were required under law to see a doctor or nurse in person before being able to access the two abortion pills. The first pill had usually been taken under medical supervision and the second at home. Prompted by the Covid-19 crisis, Ministers approved the ‘pills by post’ service last spring.

The contentious law allows women to perform ‘DIY’ abortions at home, taking the pills themselves without medical supervision after a short telephone consultation. This system was initially meant to be temporary, but abortion campaigners are calling for it to be made permanent — despite the large increase in women seeking medical assistance.

Five separate ambulance services responded to the Freedom of Information requests regarding the abortion ‘pills by post’ scheme.

In May, more than 600 medics demanded that British PM Boris Johnson end the problematic and controversial ‘pills by post’ system. In an open letter, they called for an immediate reversal to the relaxation in abortion rules, citing disturbing evidence that some pills obtained through the post after online or telephone consultations were used on unborn babies beyond the ten-week limit — and even after the 24-week U.K. limit for surgical abortions.

In the letter, doctors warned: “The decision to permit the taking of medical abortion pills at home is a dangerous policy that must not be made permanent,” adding that the move should be revoked “to protect the welfare of women”. They also argued that the new rules also make it easier for men to coerce women into abortions against their will and failed to protect girls who were being abused by adults, or women trafficked into prostitution.

One signatory of the letter, Dr Calum Miller, of Oxford University, said an in-person medical examination was “a critical safety measure to check the gestation of the pregnancy” and other possible medical issues, adding: “We should not be failing women by eliminating the checks.”

New information obtained in the recent Freedom of Information request is likely to serve as further validation for those concerned about the ‘pills by post’ system.

The outcome of the request revealed that emergency services had recorded sizeable increases in abortion-pill related calls or responses since April 2020.

In the English capital, ambulance callouts to women for cases related to the abortion pill doubled from seven to fourteen a month on average. The South Western Ambulance Service recorded an even larger increase, with emergency call-outs linked to abortion pills tripling in that region. At South East Coast Ambulance Service, the number of such 999 calls rose from about 23 a month before ‘pills by post’ was introduced to 33 a month later. The number of ambulance dispatches also jumped, from 17 to 24 a month on average.

Abortion-pill related calls and ambulance dispatches remained roughly the same in Yorkshire and the South Central area. Meanwhile, three other ambulance services serving mainland England either failed to respond to the Freedom of Information requests or said that they did not record information on emergencies specifically related to women taking the abortion pill.

According to the NHS, the pills can trigger serious problems including severe haemorrhaging. Further, it is noted that they do not always work as expected, leaving the woman with a distressing and dangerous incomplete abortion.

The first abortion pill, called mifepristone, induces abortion by causing the lining of the uterus to fall away, resulting in blood loss. The second, misoprostol, is meant to complete the abortion by triggering strong contractions. These pills are used in some four-fifths of the 210,000 abortions carried out each year in England and Wales.

Irish pro-life organisation The Life Institute said today that the Freedom of Information Request exposed the UK government’s and abortion providers’ “clear disregard for the lives of women and babies” and described the pills by post regime as  “reckless, callous and reprehensible”.

In a statement, The Life Institute added, “The increase in 999 calls across the UK is deeply troublesome, but sadly unsurprising given the level of danger these lethal pills present to both unborn babies and their mothers. Women across the U.K. and at home here in Ireland deserve so much better than to be left in such a shocking, cruel situation and without any proper medical help or supervision.”

The organisation continued: “Through this horrific DIY abortion regime, the U.K. government and greedy abortion providers are sending an unequivocal message to women, ‘You’re on your own and we aren’t willing to give you any real help. We won’t show you compassion or present positive long-term solutions to a situation of crisis pregnancy.’”

“Abortion is never safe for unborn babies or women, regardless of how the procedure is done. The UK government, through continuing to give the green light to such an extreme and careless regime, are playing fast and loose with women’s health. The latest information continues to reveal just how reckless, callous and reprehensible the ‘pills by post’ abortion system is, not only for unborn children, but for the health of their mothers, too.”

Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said: “The dangers of ‘DIY’ abortions are well known. While the increase in ambulance call-outs is deeply concerning, it is, sadly, hardly surprising. In addition to these serious safety concerns, there is no guarantee about who actually takes the abortion drugs; there are no in-person checks on the gestation of the baby, and it is very difficult to reliably assess whether or not the woman is being forced into doing something she does not want to do.

A spokesman for abortion provider BPAS also responded, saying that many women had been unable to seek advice from their GP during the Covid pandemic so may have turned to ambulance services for ‘reassurance’ after taking the pills.

The Department of Health and Social Care is shortly expected to respond to a consultation on making ‘pills by post’ permanent, after submissions closed in February.

The information from ambulance chiefs comes after the tragic abortion-related death of a young Argentinian woman. Gript reported at the time that social work student Maria de Valle Gonzalez Lopez (23) died during a legal medical abortion procedure after the country overturned its abortion ban on December 30th 2020. The April 11 death occurred after she was given an abortion pill in the Arturo Illia hospital in La Paz on April 7.

“There she was prescribed a medication – presumably misoprostol – and on Friday she began to feel ill. She was referred to the main healthcare facility in the eastern area of Mendoza, Perrupato Hospital, where they diagnosed a general infection that may have caused her death,” Clarín newspaper reported at the time.

As the devastating news of the young woman’s death swept across the world, Argentine surgeon Dr. Luis Durand said the procedure is “not truly safe…and is not a medical act, regardless of whether it’s legal or not.”

Misoprostol causes the unborn baby to be starved of nutrients, but can also cause hypovolemic shock and heavy bleeding in certain circumstances, whilst the dilation and curettage (D&C) equipment used to dismember and extract the baby can also cause infection if not sterilized properly. Any remaining parts of the unborn baby that are left in the womb can also lead to serious infections.

Worldwide, rates of medical abortions are overtaking surgical abortion rates. In 2014, medical abortions outnumbered surgical abortions in England and Wales for the first time, and in 2019, 73% of all abortions were carried out medically, according to Department of Health statistics.

The available statistical information on the Irish abortion regime (broken down by Gript here) showed that more than 98% of abortions in 2019 and 2020 were classified in the official report as early-pregnancy abortions (by abortion pill, before 12 weeks gestation).

“This is basically the same as saying that, so far as is known, in more than 98% of abortions, healthy babies of healthy mothers were aborted in both years. Abortions related to health issues, of baby or mother, were reported under separate headings, and amounted to less than 2% of the total,” Gript’s Jim Stack wrote.

The Irish statistics also draw attention to the danger of abortion pills. There were 6543 early medical abortions carried out on Irish soil in 2019, and approximately 300 women experienced serious health issues post medical abortion in the first year of legalised abortion.

The IFPA annual report for 2019, based on a sample of 177 of their clients that year, along with a START report, revealed that 8% of women that took abortion pills ended up in hospital in 2019, which would equate to well over 500 women if that percentage held across the total number of women taking abortion pills in Ireland. About 4.5% of the IFPA cases (which would equate to about 300 women per year nationally) were considered serious enough to be detained in hospital. The START figure for hospital referrals is almost identical to the IFPA figure: 7.9% of their clients were referred on to hospital in the first 6 months of the new regime.

What is glaringly obvious from various reports, statistics and stories making the news in Ireland, the UK and abroad, is that abortion pills are causing serious and widespread health problems in women.  Many commentators and campaigners, drawing on increasingly alarming and reccurrent reports, are concluding that the U.K. government’s allowance of self-medication of abortion is particularly ill-advised.

Abortion-rights campaign groups on the other hand, continue to advocate for abortion to be accessed as freely and easily as possible through ‘pills by post’ schemes.

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