Criticism over changes to abortion regulations in Wales

Clwyd West AM Darren has criticised changes to abortion regulations in Wales which were made in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The changes, which allow women to perform their own medical abortions at home, have been criticised for the lack of scrutiny prior to their introduction and campaigners have suggested that they could put women and young girls at risk.

In response, Darren has written to the First Minister, Mark Drakeford AM, this week calling for the changes to be suspended as soon as possible.

The letter states:

“I am writing to you today regard abortion, and recent changes made to its provision in Wales which allow women to perform an abortion on themselves by taking mifeprisone and misoprostol abortion pills at home, without a doctor or other medical professional present. I am gravely concerned about these changes.

“As you will be aware, it is common for women suffer complications after medical abortions and, due to the lack of supervision which now takes place and the inability to verify (i.e. via ultrasound) the weeks’ gestation of a pregnancy, there is now a real possibility that the number of women suffering complications post-abortion will increase placing even more strain on our NHS staff who are already working flat out to keep our nation safe. 

“I am also concerned about the significant safeguarding issues that arise when a woman or girl is not seen in person by a medical professional during when having an abortion. It is an essential safeguard that a woman or girl attends a clinic or hospital to ensure that she has an opportunity to be seen alone and to ensure that there are no safeguarding issues present. Such issues include a woman or girl facing coercion or abuse from a third party, as someone who is abusing them (including those involved in sex-trafficking) can easily hide in the background of an electronic communication consultation.

“Finally, I am troubled by the lack of scrutiny on these changes in the National Assembly. The new arrangements to abortion provision are the biggest changes our country has made to abortion services in the last 50 years, and I believe elected Assembly Members should have been able to discuss them and have their say on whether they should have been implemented.

“Given the above I would request that these changes be suspended as soon as possible, and seek your assurances that, if they are to continue, they will be reversed as soon as the current restrictions on movement in relation to Covid-19 are eased.”

The First Minister is yet to reply.

Spokesperson for Right to Life UK, Catherine Robinson added:

“This is the most significant policy change to the practice of abortion in Wales since 1967 and it has happened entirely by the back-door – without any Parliamentary scrutiny or public consultation.

“This policy change goes against the very argument previously made by the abortion industry who argued that abortions should be provided at approved locations to protect women from abuse and coercion. By encouraging women to have abortions at home or other locations, the Welsh Government have put the health and safety of women at risk.

“The Welsh Government must immediately repeal these changes to allow proper democratic procedures to be undertaken, but more importantly, to protect the health of thousands of women across the country.”