The General Medical Council (GMC) in Britain has dropped its case against a pro-life doctor who had been banned from providing abortion pill reversal treatment (APR) using the hormone progesterone, which is often prescribed to prevent miscarriage. The case had been instigated by an abortion provider but no evidence was subsequently found to back the charges against the doctor.
Irish-born consultant cardiologist, Dr Dermot Kearney, started providing APR treatment – for free – after connecting with a pro-life organisation and witnessing a significant demand from women experiencing regret after taking the first abortion pill, mifepristone.
Dr Kearney told Gript that providing APR therapy has been ‘the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done’. Pro-life group advocating for “better choices” for women have welcomed the GMC’s decision, saying that women should have the right to chose to reverse the effect of the first abortion pill and continue with their pregnancy.
The GMC dropped the case against Dr Kearney, acknowledging that there was no prospect of finding any evidence to support any of the ten allegations which were made against the pro-life doctor.
As reported by Gript, in May 2020, Dr Kearney was banned from providing emergency abortion pill reversal therapy (APR), a procedure which involves administering the natural hormone, progesterone, which can be safely given to pregnant women who have taken the first of two abortion-inducing pills in an effort to block the effect of the first abortion pill.
According to abortion provider, BPAS, “The abortion pill is in fact two medicines. The first medicine ends the pregnancy and is named mifepristone. It works by blocking the hormone progesterone. Without progesterone, the lining of the uterus breaks down and the pregnancy cannot continue.
The second medicine, misoprostol makes the womb contract, causing cramping, bleeding and the loss of the pregnancy similar to a miscarriage.
Abortion Pill Reversal involves administering progesterone after the first abortion pill has been taken – which helps to undo the effect of mifepristone and can help to ensure the unborn child survives.
The Daily Mail today said that Dr Kearney had helped 32 women reverse the effect of the first abortion pill, and said that for the women the paper spoke to he “became a saviour to them and their babies”.
“Indeed, the babies’ doting parents will forever be indebted to this softly spoken Irishman, who they describe as a lifesaver,” the paper reported. One woman said of him: “to find there was such kindness in the world was phenomenal. It felt so selfless I cried”.
Marie Stopes International (MSI), a prominent UK abortion provider, claimed that Dr Kearney inappropriately prescribed the hormone to a patient for “a use not backed by evidence” whilst “failing to present a balanced picture of its benefits and risks”. MSI also made the claim that Dr Kearney “imposed his anti-abortion beliefs” on a patient, something which he strenuously denied.
But the abortion provider’s case against Dr Kearney began to fall apart when a vulnerable woman who was helped by the pro-life doctor told the Medical Council that she felt ‘scared and pressured’ by Marie Stopes who called and emailed her trying to gather evidence against Kearney, the Daily Mail reported.
In a statement to the GMC, the women said Dr Kearney was ‘professional, kind and compassionate’, in contrast to the abortion providers made her feel “scared and pressured” at a time when she was “vulnerable and ill”.
‘I feel that Marie Stopes are to blame for what has happened to me and I do not wish to be used by them in some sort of complaint against Dr Dermot,” she said.
Speaking to Gript, Dr Kearney said he got involved in administering the APR treatment shortly after the first lockdown in the UK after being informed that women were looking for the service through the Abortion Pill Rescue Network, which is a project hosted by pro-life organisation Heartbeat International.
The network describes APR treatment as “a last chance to choose life.”
The Abortion Pill Rescue Network explains: “From the moment a woman takes the abortion pill, she has about 72 hours to change her mind and save her baby. The Abortion Pill Rescue Network, through Option Line’s 24/7 contact center, answers more than 150 mission-critical calls a month from women who regret their abortion decision. Statistics show that more than 3,000 lives have been saved (and counting) through the abortion pill reversal protocol.
“Seeking a last chance to choose life for their little ones, women can reach out to the Abortion Pill Rescue Network and be connected with a local medical provider who starts the Abortion Pill Reversal Process”, they say.
The women desperate to save their pregnancies often contact pro-life doctors through searching ‘abortion pill reversal’ on Google if they experience instant regret after taking the first abortion pill.
Last year, Dr Kearney was banned from providing the treatment for up to 18 months by an Interim Orders Tribunal, following a referral from the General Medical Council (GMC).
Dr Kearney challenged the decision to ban him from providing the treatment and was supported in doing so by the Christian Legal Centre. The case was set to be heard at the Royal Courts of Justice on Thursday 24th February, but the GMC then dropped the case. Speaking with Gript ahead of the hearing, Dr Kearney said that he was “very hopeful about the outcome.”
“All the evidence is on our side,” he said.
Dr Kearney’s lawyers argued that the interim order against him should never have been made, and should now be discharged.
They also argued that the general dispute about the safety and ethics of APR therapy was outside of the GMC’s remit and that the evidence against Dr Kearney failed to demonstrate a real risk of impairment of fitness to practise. Dr Kearney’s legal team maintained throughout that the measures enforced were disproportionate and that the evidence does not demonstrate that the conditions are necessary to protect the public.
The General Medical Council dropped the case before it reached the High Court as it was argued that there was no prospect of finding any concrete evidence to support any of the ten allegations which were made against the doctor.
It was described as “a huge victory” for the pro-life doctor, the broader pro-life movement and APR treatment” by supporters in Britain and Ireland.
The GMC has now asked the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) to revoke the conditions which banned Dr Kearney from providing progesterone to pregnant women seeking to block the early abortion pill, and this was done on Friday 18th of February.
“There is no doubt that the threat of a High Court hearing forced them to act fast,” Dr Kearney told Gript. The GMC then quickly relented. Dr Kearney added that even the GMC’s own expert witness in the case was “largely supportive of APR in practise.”
Dr Kearney now hopes to have the service up and running again in the near future, telling us he hopes the outcome of the case will set a precedent across the world and validate the legitimacy of APR treatment.
On its website, the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (the tribunal service for doctors in the UK which makes independent decisions about whether doctors are fit to practise medicine), states that the order against Dr Kearney has been revoked. The interim conditions imposed on the doctor have also been revoked, the MPTS states.
‘THE MOST REWARDING THING I’VE EVER DONE’
Speaking to Gript shortly ahead of the decision, Dr Kearney said that providing the abortion pill reversal treatment to women in crisis has been the most rewarding part of his entire medical career which has spanned over 20 years.
Explaining why he decided to offer the chance for women to block the effects of the abortion pill and potentially save their babies, he told us: “I did this because I could clearly see that the need and the demand was there. It is the most rewarding thing that I’ve ever done.” He adds that the evidence to back up the safety of the treatment is there – progesterone has been used for decades to safely treat women at risk of miscarriage – and he provided a service that so many women in the UK, where medical abortion is the most common form of abortion, wanted.
‘THE NEED AND THE DEMAND WERE THERE’
“The need was there and the demand was there. The motivation was the need and the desperation of women who regretted this decision, and the fact there was nobody else offering this,” he said.
Responding to MSI’s claims, he also told us: “I never tried to push my pro-life beliefs on anyone, and I only ever talked about being a Catholic when one of the women asked me about my faith even though MSI tried to turn this into a purely religious issue from the start,” Moreover, he says: “I didn’t try to persuade women otherwise; I simply offered them a choice.”
Although Dr Kearney expresses huge joy that he has been able to save the lives of 20 babies, some of whom he has been able to meet, he is critical of the ban imposed on him for providing the treatment, stating that he believes lives have been lost directly because of it.
“32 babies that we know of have been saved [by Dr Kearney and another female pro-life doctor offering the treatment] in the UK. However, since I was banned from providing this service, Heartbeat International has told me there have been 160 calls; 7 of those from Ireland, where women sought APR treatment. Although they were called back by the APR helpline, they were not able to be helped.”
He stresses that providing progesterone is not guaranteed to work, and adds that the hardest part of providing the treatment is seeing it fail in some cases.
“Prompt treatment is the key thing here, and will increase success rates. Whilst we cannot promise APR will allow the baby to stay alive in all cases, it has a 55% rate so far in the UK, and that figure is as high as 70% in some US states.”
He ventures that the success rate is probably higher in the US owing to the fact that there is greater public awareness about the treatment, and it is even mandatory to tell women about APR in some US states. He adds that “the data has grown stronger and stronger” surrounding the safety of the treatment.
The success of the treatment also depends on the gestation and health of the woman, he says.
Dr Kearney told us that claims that the treatment is unsafe are categorically untrue, and added that his case raises uncomfortable questions for abortion providers.
“It’s a complete myth that this treatment is unsafe, and I hope that my case will raise awareness that this is not the case.”
“The problem with this going to court [for those who sought to ban APR] was the lack of evidence but also the fact that it shows women change their minds after abortion, and it raises uncomfortable questions for abortion providers. It also shows that women are not fully informed about the options open to them; most women don’t want to have an abortion but feel as though they have no other choices. Studies, for instance, are out there which show that women can be coerced into abortion by a family member of partner more than 60% of the time.”
He says the breakthrough decision in the UK will have “major ramifications” across the world, including in many European countries, in Russia, and in commonwealth Canada where the abortion pill reversal treatment has also faced scrutiny.
Now, Dr Kearney hopes that the positive outcome will lead other doctors to get involved in providing a service which he says is desperately needed. He says that abortion providers and the NHS on a broader scale are doing an “injustice” to women for not raising awareness about the possibility of being able to reverse the effects of the first abortion pill to deliver a healthy baby.
The NHS doctor says that during his time providing the treatment, women have told him first-hand that abortion providers and NHS trusts told them there was no such thing as abortion pill reversal. He believes this needs to change, and that, in light of the decision, NHS trusts and abortion providers should face a legal mandate to tell women that abortion pill reversal therapy exists – and as his case has proven, is safe and effective for both mother and baby, despite claims to the contrary by campaigners and journalists in the UK, Ireland, and across the world.
The Life Institute, which has produced several campaigns raising awareness of Abortion Pill Reversal, said the result was a “victory” for women and babies. “Dr Kearney is a hero to these women because he offered them a real choice: a safe alternative to abortion. Anyone who says women need choices should be welcoming this news,” they said. “Now the Department of Health in Ireland needs to start offering women this choice also. We know that women in Ireland are looking for Abortion Pill Reversal, and that choice must be respected.”