C: Dermot Kearney via Twitter & Polina Tankilevitch via Unsplash

Pro-life doctor to challenge ban on providing abortion pill reversal treatment at UK High Court

A pro-life NHS doctor banned from providing abortion pill reversal treatment (APR) is set to challenge the ban later this month at the High Court.

Dr Dermot Kearney, an experienced medical consultant, is believed to have saved the lives of at least 22 babies using the progesterone hormone treatment, after being approached by women who had taken the first of two abortion pills and regretted that decision.

Dr Kearney also provides emergency care and is the former president of the Catholic Medical Association in the UK. He has been banned from providing the treatment for up to 18 months by an Interim Orders Tribunal, following a referral from the General Medical Council (GMC).

In May 2020, Mr Kearney was banned from providing emergency abortion pill reversal therapy (APR), a procedure which involves administering progesterone, a natural hormone, which can be given to pregnant women who have taken the first of two abortion pills – and seek to reverse the effect of the first pill, mifepristone.

Dr Kearney said dozens of anguished women had turned to him for help following taking the first abortion pill, and feeling a surge of regret – after the NHS provided no solution to their predicament. He believes his interventions may have saved dozens of babies’ lives.

Dr Kearney says that if progesterone is taken within roughly 24 hours of taking mifepristone, the chance of the unborn baby surviving doubles from 25 per cent if nothing is done, to 50 per cent. However, a Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) panel ordered him to stop offering the treatment. The decision followed a complaint by one of the UK’s leading abortion providers, Marie Stopes International, now known as MSI Reproductive Choices.

Reports from the UK state that MSI claimed Dr Kearney inappropriately prescribed progesterone to a patient for ‘a use not backed by evidence’ whilst failing to ‘present a balanced picture of its benefits and risks’. MSI also claimed that he ‘imposed his anti-abortion beliefs’ on the patient.

The decision from the GMC to stop Dr Kearney from providing treatment is believed to be the first time a medical doctor has been stopped from providing a treatment that saves lives.

In his challenge to the ban, Dr Kearney will be supported by the Christian Legal Centre. The case is set to be heard at the Royal Courts of Justice on 24 February 2022. Lawyers are set to submit that the interim order against him should never have been made, and should now be discharged.

They will argue that the general dispute about the safety and ethics of APR therapy is outside of the GMC’s remit and that the evidence against Dr Kearney fails to demonstrate a real risk of impairment of fitness to practise.

Dr Kearney’s legal team say that the measures enforced are disproportionate and that the evidence does not demonstrate that the conditions are necessary to protect the public.

ABORTION PILL REVERSAL: IS IT SAFE?

According to Irish pro-life organisation The Life Institute, “Abortion pill reversal offers women a real choice whebn they are looking for a second chance. Because the first abortion pill simply blocks the effect of progesterone which nourishes the baby, there’s a safe way to reverse that. 

“To reverse the effect of that first abortion pill , doctors give a prescription of progesterone to counteract those effects. In fact, using progesterone has been used in this way for decades to prevent miscarriages. This is a very effective treatment – and providers say it works up to 70% of the time, with NO harmful side-effects for either mother or baby.” 

“The process is safe for both the mother and for her unborn child, and offers a real chance for the woman to rescue her unborn child when she has changed her mind about abortion,” says the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. They point out that “Natural progesterone has been used for over 50 years in the treatment of early pregnancies who are threatening to miscarry” and it’s safe for the baby.

They also found that when abortion pill reversal was successful there “have been no increased risks of birth defects noted” for baby. Dr William Lile OBGYN of the Abortion Pill Reversal Network says that their records show that reversing the effects of the abortion pill is successful up to 70% of the time. 

INCREASE IN WOMEN SEEKING APR

According to Christian Concern, the COVID pandemic has seen a spike in women seeking APR following the government’s controversial double u-turn introducing abortion via telemedicine.

Since the start of the COVID crisis in March 2020, abortion providers in the UK have been legally permitted to send out abortion pills by post. This means that women who are under ten weeks pregnant can at present request, receive and take these pills without any human contact or medical supervision. The only contact required is a short telephone call, often with someone who is not medically qualified.

One woman has described the process of getting the abortion pills as “easier than getting a takeaway” and serious safety and ethical concerns have been repeatedly raised in parliament. The service was ushered in without parliamentary debate or scrutiny, and has led to thousands of vulnerable women undergoing unsafe and often traumatic abortions at home without proper medical advice, medical supervision or aftercare.

Speaking at the UK March for Life last year, one young lady, Natalia, shared her heartbreaking abortion pill story.

“Looking back on my home abortion, there were so many things that are wrong and so many lies I was told,” she said.

She went on to recount to the March how in the early hours of the morning last June, she went into her bathroom and began to abort her child, which immediately resulted in “emotional and physical pain”.

After taking the pills, she sat on the toilet and looked down:  “What I saw wasn’t a heavy period and it wasn’t a clump of cells – it was a baby . . . it was my baby . . . it was my son,” she said.

The young woman was unequivocal in her criticism of the abortion industry and its supporters: “The abortion industry will tell you this happened in the privacy of my own home. This wasn’t privacy; this was isolation,” she said decisively.

“I needed help, but my voice was silenced.”

Natalia is among the thousands of vulnerable women who have had abortions at home in the UK since the rules were loosened. Many of these women have had to call 999 for urgent support, and some even needed emergency surgery. As reported by Gript, ambulance chiefs in the UK reported, through a freedom of information request, that emergency calls had surged since the legislative change in March 2020. In addition to this, it has been reported that women have obtained pills as late as 32 weeks into pregnancy; several police investigations into late abortions have been launched in the UK.

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.

The service was introduced without parliamentary debate or scrutiny and has led to thousands of vulnerable women having unsafe and traumatic abortions at home without proper advice, medical supervision or aftercare.

Some women have faced instant regret after taking the first abortion pill, and rather than taking the sevond pill, have sought emergency support to save their pregnancy.

The organisation reports that: “There has been a 55% success rate (live births following the administration of the medication) following the treatment which is more than double the survival rate of 20-25% following expectant management alone (without Progesterone administration) as found in a previously published study.”

Furthermore, they point out that in recently published guidance, health watchdog NICE has recommended the use of progesterone by women who experience bleeding in early pregnancy and have had at least one miscarriage (see BBC report) – which throws into doubt claims that APR is dangerous.

NICE’s chief executive, Professor Gillian Leng, said the natural hormone which helps prepare the womb for a baby, is: “of benefit to some women, and as an inexpensive treatment option, can be made available to women on the NHS from today”.

MISLEADING CLAIMS OF ‘DANGEROUS’ SIDE EFFECTS

Christian Concern point out that whilst abortion providers claim APR is dangerous and should be banned, they have failed to provide any credible evidence to support their position. The organisation explains:

“They frequently cite a trial by Creinin that was abandoned for safety concerns, but fail to mention that negative side effects were seen amongst the group that was given placebos.

“Two of the three women in the study who suffered haemorrhage requiring emergency care were given placebos following mifepristone administration. Only one had received progesterone. One of those three, notably in the placebo group, required a blood transfusion.”

The main author of the study, Dr Creinin, an outspoken critic of APR, stated that enrolment for the study was discontinued prematurely “for safety reasons after the third patient required emergency evaluation and a transfusion.” It had been intended to recruit forty women in total for a complete study.

Citing this study, it has been concluded by opponents of APR that progesterone administered in this context represents a serious danger to women. However, Dr Kearney’s supporters say that the limited findings of this study in no way support the idea that APR treatment is dangerous.

“IF IT WASN’T FOR DR KEARNEY, OUR CHILD WOULD NOT BE ALIVE”

Since news surfaced that Dr Kearney had been prohibited from providing APR, many women who were helped by him when they faced crisis pregnancies, have come forward to support his legal challenge to the ban (names changed for anonymity), according to Christian Concern.

Finding out she was pregnant during lockdown, Rachel felt she could not go through with the pregnancy on her own. She says she ‘impulsively’ made an appointment at an abortion clinic and when she arrived the next day, she says she was in ‘hysterics’.

“While they were doing the scan, I could not stop crying”, she says. “The staff were unconcerned and frustrated with me. I received no support, no guidance or even compassion as to what I was feeling and about to do.”

Feeling under pressure, Rachel took the first pill and regretted it. She asked the doctors at the clinic whether it was possible to reverse what she had done, but they told her it was not.

Going home, she phoned the father of the child, Adam, who was in another region of the country, and told him he needed to drive to her home and help her urgently.

After researching whether an abortion could be reversed, the couple made contact with Dr Kearney who advised them that they needed to get to a pharmacy before it closed that evening to have a chance of saving the pregnancy.

After getting a prescription of progesterone to begin the treatment, the couple both broke down in tears in their car – such was the relief that someone was there to support them no matter what the outcome.

Weeks of guidance and support from Dr Kearney followed, resulting in Rachel recovering the pregnancy and giving birth to a healthy baby boy.

“He was incredible,” Rachel says. “He was kind, he did not pressurise me, he set realistic expectations and also helped my partner who had questions.

“If it wasn’t for Dr Kearney, our child would not be alive,” she says. “We have not once regretted the decision to reverse the termination and we are grateful to Dr Kearney for being there for us.”

The father of the miracle baby has also spoken of the experience, Adam said: “It was a race against time to save our son.

“It was such a relief to have access to someone who fundamentally saved our child’s life.

“I feel blessed to have our little boy in this world. We are not religious, but that act of kindness by Dermot was like having a guardian angel with us.”

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