I think it was designed by the Government as a very temporary measure. I do not think for a moment that it was designed as a permanent measure; it was designed simply in the context of covid-19. Body language and visual signs cannot be observed over the telephone. It is not a perfect way of consulting. There are already investigations into nine cases where pills issued via telephone were taken beyond the recommended gestation. This is less than two months after the service commenced. In one case, the abortion took place some 18 weeks over the legal limit of nine weeks and six days. We have also seen, of course, the media give better attention to domestic abuse and that increase in visibility may have given victims greater strength to come forward, which is good, but the gravity of women being coerced into abortion does not seem to have been taken as seriously as it should have been. It seems obvious to me that a woman seeking an abortion under duress may be being observed by abusive partners, or are otherwise acting in fear, and they will be less likely to come forward and disclose abuse.
I could quote doctors on this again and again, but there is not enough time. One said to me:
“This proposed amendment would place doctors in a very risky situation. Deciding whether a patient might be in an abusive situation by one telemedicine consultation would be almost impossible…
Assessment of women at risk of domestic abuse should be part of a comprehensive safeguarding strategy—it should not be left to a single doctor working under time pressure, via the medium of telemedicine.”
I know that there are strong views and I respect the position of Dame Diana Johnson. None the less, we will never agree, and this is, frankly, lazy legislating. It is an abuse of parliamentary procedure. Abortion is such an important issue that we need to have a serious debate around it. We in the Pro-Life lobby recognise that we will never change the fact that if a woman wants an abortion, she will get one, but we will never give up arguing the importance of the value of all life, however frail, and the dignity of all human beings. We consider it a vitally important issue and it should be dealt with properly by parliament.