Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 72(1) February 2022   

In Haec Tempora

Harm sustained by women who take medical abortion pills

fetusSPUC reported an investigation carried out by an organisation called Percuity, which included 85 freedom of information requests submitted to NHS trusts, has shown that 1 in 17 women who used pills-by- post abortion services in 2020 suffered from side effects so severe that they required hospital treatment. Percuity is an “Independent Consultant” body providing. “Public health research, data analysis, and commentary on the global provision of sexual and reproductive health and rights; telemedicine and self-managed medical abortion; ethics, policy and payment. Perspective matters” . Looking at their website they clearly appreciate the value of unborn life. Many would seek to dismiss any findings merely because they appreciate unborn life. But in fact, they have gained information that covers over 40 million of the UK population and reported what NHS Trusts have said in a Freedom of In-formation Request

5.9% required hospital treatment

The investigation found that 5.9% of women required treatment because of incomplete abortions, with women retaining parts of their aborted babies.

3% of women required surgical evacuation of the remains of an unborn child after abortion pill failure.

2.3% of women were treated for haemorrhages.

The complication rate mirrored similar studies and reports, with the investigation concluding that: “We can say that complications arising from the failure of the medical abortion treatment are common and should be planned for.”

The investigation [1] , led by Percuity Ltd and headed by consultant Kevin Duffy, also found that abortion providers and the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) did not report abortion pill failure as a complication, despite such failures leading to hospital treatment – meaning that less than 1-in-5 complications were reported.

Complications are ‘common’, but still go unreported

Kevin Duffy said: “This is the disturbing truth of abortion care during the pandemic that has not been reported to the government by providers… “It demonstrates clearly what needs to change and why the government must not make DIY home abortion telemedicine permanent. The time to end it is now well overdue.”

SPUC tells us that Kevin Duffy is a former Marie Stopes International employee and pro-life convert, who has spoken with SPUC previously about what they describe as the unscrupulous and dishonest methods of the abortion industry.

The tragic and lonely reality of DIY abortion

DIY home abortion was introduced in response to lockdown at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic. SPUC has campaigned tirelessly against the measure.

In total, from the start of April 2020 to the end of September 2021, 180,182 women in England had abortions at home using abortion pills, miso-prostol and mifepristone, or taking at least one pill, misoprostol, at home after taking mifepris-tone at a clinic.

Since early 2020, SPUC has been reporting on the lonely and tragic reality faced by women under-going an abortion at home without medical supervision, including a woman named Sophie, who, after such an abortion, reported that “there were big chunks coming out of me… “I would break down sobbing in the shower because chunks were coming out of me – it was absolutely horrifying…. I don’t want anyone to suffer like I did.” [3].

In early 2021, SPUC also responded to a govern-ment consultation on DIY abortion, calling on the Government to end home abortions immediately. Michael Robinson, SPUC Executive Director (Public Affairs & Legal Services), said: “This devastating report confirms what SPUC has said all along: that DIY home abortion is not safe or simple.

“Earlier this year, a report revealed that ambulance calls for abortion complications rose by 54% in 2020, as reported by SPUC, an urgent indication that women were being put at risk by DIY abortion.

“These are the facts, confirmed by numerous reports, as well as anecdotal evidence, which the mainstream media and the Government have continued to ignore.

COMMENT Implications for Abortion Pill Reversal

Many readers will know that two UK doctors are currently being investigated by the General Medical Council for having reached out to women to support them after they changed their minds about taking the second abortion pill. The complaint was raised with the GMC by Abortion providers who clearly pointed out a study in America of abortion pill reversal which was halted after bleeding in three women [4]. Two of those three women were in the placebo group. We should note that gestational survival to 2 weeks was 4/5 for the progesterone group and 2/5 for the placebo group. Two women withdrew “for subjective symptoms (nausea and vomiting, bleed-ing).” But the trial was discontinued early because of bleeding in 3 women , two of whom were in the placebo group. So in this (tiny) trial which was stopped early due to safety concerns mainly among the placebo arm, the progesterone arm of the trial did rather better and appears safer. And yet, that study is cited to suggest that giving progesterone to women who no longer want to take the second abortion pill is unsafe.[4]

The abortion industry cannot really have it both ways. To state that abortion pill reversal is unsafe after two women in a placebo arm of a trial suffered bleeding, when hospital care for bleeding is so common after routine medical abortion, really does appear to be disingenuous. We also note that Progesterone, which has been extensively used in America with good outcomes , is also now recommended by NICE [5]for threatened miscarriage. That good doctors who, of their charity, offered care to women seeking help in a crisis find themselves under investigation with restrictions imposed upon them by the General Medical Council appears deeply unjust.

We are grateful to SPUC for source material for this report.


  1. SPUC news, 29 November 2021. Over 10,000 women who took DIY abortion pills required hospital treatment in 2020, “devastating” new study shows.
  2. Percuity 2021. FOI Investigation into Medical Abortion Treatment Failure.
  3. SPUC news 19th Feb 2021 I don’t want anyone to suffer like I did”: Woman speaks out about DIY home abortion
  4. Treloar A (2021) Abortion pill reversal: effective care that exposes the “pro-choice” deception Catholic Medical Quarterly August 2021, Volume 71(3) 6-7.
  5. NICE Ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage: diag-nosis and initial management NICE guideline [NG126]Published: 17 April 2019 Last updated: 24 November 2021.