It’s ironic that abortion providers campaigned for amendments to the UK’s Domestic Abuse Bill in order to make abortions at home, with the abortion pills posted out after just a telephone request, a permanent measure, even after the Covid crisis is eventually over. I used to work closely with Merton Women’s Aid in London for many years when I was a GP so have good reason to consider it a real irony that abortion advocates are seeking to hijack this particular Bill.
In my past clinical experience, most abusive men tried to coerce women who want to keep their child, into having an abortion they did not want. Making abortions easier with pills in the post will be a real gift to abusers who can continue for example, sexual violation of their partners without having to take responsibility for a baby they have fathered. Relaxing existing abortion safeguards further will offer no protection for abused women but rather make their lot worse. Such coercion is often detected in the consulting room face to face, where those with coercive partners can be sure that what they share will not be overheard.
With these emergency DIY home abortions, involving just a telephone call or a video consultation, what guarantee can there be that the abuser is not in the room, just out of camera shot to ensure he gets his way? I lost count of the number of times that women said to me that they felt they had no choice but to have an abortion because they feared the repercussions of defying their abuser if they didn’t do what he demanded.
Very few studies have formally explored the incidence of coerced abortion in abusive relationships. In one of the published papers that has investigated the problem (Hathaway et al, 2005), seven out of 13 women reported having experienced coercion to have an abortion. In a much larger US study of 954 women, one-third of the participants reported such pressure to abort (Chibber et al, 2014). Such instances of abuse may not be detected if women are denied the opportunity of a face-to-face consultation where confidentiality and privacy can be assured without the presence of a third party listening in.
In the coronavirus pandemic, the opportunity for such reproductive coercion is obviously greatly enhanced and recent news reports confirm a rising incidence of 25 per cent of domestic abuse in the UK (Kelly and Morgan, 2020) since restriction of movement was introduced. This is a serious social problem, which does need to be tackled by appropriate tightening of the law, but making abortion pills available through the post on request over the phone simply aids and abets abusers rather than protecting the abused.
Abortion pills by post is not a lifeline for abused women who become pregnant but rather a lifeline for abortion agencies to increase their reach during the Covid crisis and maintain their profits long after coronavirus has passed.
Trevor Stammers BSc, MA, FRCGP, DRCOG, FHEA, Dip Psych is the author of Love Lies Bleeding: When Intimacy Turns to Abuse (Hodder) and was a medical practitioner in South London for 27 years. He is currently an Associate Professor in medical ethics and law at St. Mary’s University, Twickenham.
Republished by permission from https://www.choicescommunity.co.uk
Hathaway J. E., Willis G., Zimmer B. and Silverman J. G. (2005), Impact of partner abuse on women’s Reproductive Lives, Journal of the American Women’s Medical Association (60), 42-45.
Chibber K.S. et al (2014), The Role of Intimate Partners in Women’s Reasons for Seeking Abortion, Women’s Health Issues (24), 131–38.
Kelly J. and Morgan T. (2020), Coronavirus: Domestic Abuse Calls Up 25% Since Lockdown, charity says www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-52157620