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Anti-abortion campaigners lose court appeal to prevent women’s continuing access to abortion care at home

  • Ruling makes clear Secretary of State for Health and Social Care acted within the law when he authorised the at home abortion service to protect women’s health
  • Christian Concern has refused to pay the NHS for at least 20 fraudulent NHS-funded appointments and medications dispensed as a result of the bungled, wasteful and dishonest "mystery shopping" spree with which they tried and failed to manufacture evidence to underpin their case.
  • The anti-abortion group have confirmed that they are continuing their futile exercise, wasting even more appointments and precious NHS resources.
  • The charity the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, BPAS, have welcomed today’s ruling, commenting that telemedical abortion care has dramatically reduced waiting times and led to women being able to access abortion at the earliest gestations – since the regulations were introduced a record 86% of abortions were performed under 10 weeks
  • Veteran pro-choice campaigner Diane Munday, who helped bring in the 1967 Abortion Act, notes the statute was deliberately drafted to allow future changes in the places in which legal abortions could be carried out to be made by government Ministers and criticised the Christian Concern campaign as "deliberately wasting public money"
  • This autumn, the government will launch a consultation on retaining the regulations enabling telemedicine for abortion care once Covid-19 arrangements expire. BPAS has said that there will be strong support for making telemedicine a permanent option from women, abortion care providers, and medical bodies.

An anti-abortion campaign group, Christian Concern, has today lost their legal challenge to prevent women being able to continue to access abortion care by telemedicine.

In March, the Secretary of State for Health approved temporary measures in England to enable women to have their consultation performed via telemedicine and, for women who are clinically suitable and under 10 weeks of pregnancy, to receive treatment at home during the pandemic. Today, the High Court rejected the group’s claim that the Health Secretary did not have the legal authority to permit this change and that the service must therefore be suspended.

In the hope of finding evidence of wrong-doing to support its court challenge, Christian Concern used carefully briefed actors to conduct "mystery shopping " to trick NHS-funded services into providing early abortion care at home, using up 20 appointments and medication packs for fake clients with fake names. They found no evidence of unlawful activity – only that women were being provided with safe, compassionate, and legal care at their time of need.

BPAS has formally asked Christian Concern to take action to ensure the NHS does not have to bear the costs incurred for this part of its failed campaign to remove women’s access to legal and safe medical treatment. The organisation has not only refused to do so but have confirmed that they are wasting even more NHS-resources by continuing their dishonest and pointless activities.

In July, the government announced that there will be a public consultation on whether the new regulations enabling telemedicine for abortion care should be retained once Covid-19 arrangements expire. A Department of Health report released has shown that the introduction of telemedical abortion services has enabled women to undergo abortion at the earliest gestations. Data from BPAS, the leading abortion provider in the UK, also shows that waiting times for appointments have more than halved, that the average gestation at which women have their consultation has also fallen by over a week. The charity’s figures show that 50% of abortions were performed before 7 weeks gestation from January to June 2020, compared to almost 40% for the same period in 2019. Abortion is a very safe procedure and considerably safer than carrying a pregnancy to term, but the earlier it can be performed the better for women’s physical and mental health.

Clare Murphy, Deputy Chief Executive at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said:

"We welcome today’s High Court ruling. The Secretary of State for Health not only had the right to permit telemedical abortion care, but he was absolutely right to do so. Telemedical abortion care has protected women’s health and wellbeing during the pandemic, and women have told us just how much they value this service and want it to continue so other women in the future can benefit. Because of telemedicine, waiting times have dramatically decreased, and the average gestation at which women are able to end a pregnancy has fallen. The telemedical abortion service has become the standard of high quality, woman-centred care in many other countries around the world, and we are proud to be able support women in this way in the UK. 

"This is a time when there is already unprecedented strain on healthcare services and for anti-abortion campaigners to continue to squander valuable NHS resources in this way is just wrong. We believe that while Christian Concern has an absolute right to campaign and lobby against women’s choice, it has no right whatsoever to expect the NHS to shoulder the costs of any part of this campaign. We urge the organisation to do the right thing by paying back to the NHS the costs incurred for this pointless and wasteful activity to date, and ending this futile exercise."

Diane Munday commented:

"This is not the first time those who oppose legal abortion have lied, published false "facts" and manufactured "evidence" to try to persuade parliament and the public to accept their minority beliefs. Clearly Christian Concern did not learn from, for example, the fate of the Book "Babies for Burning" whose authors in the 1970s also misled and lied their way round pregnancy testing and abortion clinics/ services. They ended up in The High Court apologising and withdrawing all their accusations against BPAS. However even they did not go so far as to financially defraud the NHS which, in itself, is bad enough but to do so in the name of Christianity beggars’ belief!

"In 1967, the statute was deliberately drafted to allow future changes in the places in which legal abortions could be carried out to be made by the Minister or Secretary of State for health without being put before Parliament. Those who brought this case were clearly carelessly or deliberately wasting public money and the time of The Supreme Court on bringing a case that had no chance of success."

ENDS

For further information please contact BPAS on press@bpas.org or 07788 725185

About BPAS

BPAS is a charity which sees almost 100,000 women a year for reproductive healthcare services including pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management and contraception, at clinics across the UK. It supports and advocates for reproductive choice. BPAS also runs the Centre for Reproductive Research and Communication, which seeks to develop and deliver a research agenda that furthers women’s access to evidence-based reproductive healthcare, driven by an understanding of women’s perspectives and needs. You can find out more here: https://www.bpas.org/get-involved/centre-for-reproductive-research-communication/

BPAS intends to launch a not-for-profit fertility service in Spring 2021, to provide ethical, evidence based, person-centred care that supports patients. We intend to only charge what it costs to provide a safe, high-quality, and accessible service to patients who may be unable to access NHS funded care.