First trimester abortion has become available on the West Coast of New Zealand, putting pre-born children and their mothers in the region at greater risk of harm than previously.
In a recent press release, the West Coast District Health Board announced that early medical and surgical abortion would be available to pregnant women less than 12 weeks. Those women who are 12 weeks and 1 day to 14 weeks will be referred to Christchurch Women’s Hospital’s Gynaecology Procedure Unit.
Early Medical Abortion under 9 weeks will be provided either by telehealth, or as an outpatient at Te Nīkau Hospital.
Surgical abortions will be performed on women 12 weeks and under at Te Nīkau Hospital, after first having a virtual consultation with a doctor.
Norma Campbell, Director of Midwifery for both Christchurch and West Coast DHB’s expressed her delight, saying that the “changes are a major development for pregnant West Coasters.”
Ultrasound no longer required for early medical abortion
Astonishingly, the West Coast DHB has announced that “routine ultrasound scans are no longer required for all early medical abortions and will only be undertaken for people with a clinical need.”
An ultrasound scan prior to medical abortion is important for dating the pregnancy, ensuring that the mother is not beyond 9 weeks (63 days) pregnant. Further, it provides visual evidence that the pregnancy is not ectopic, where the embryo has implanted outside of the womb. Ectopic pregnancies have the potential of being fatal for both mother and pre-born child. Inducing an early medical abortion utilising mifepristone and misoprostol in either of these situations places the mother at serious risk of complications.
At-home medical abortions have many pitfalls
The lack of evidence for at-home (telehealth) abortion, and the serious pitfalls in the scheme, which is becoming more prevalent throughout the Western world, were highlighted in a paper produced in 2021 by the UK’s Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC). In that paper many incorrect assumptions about at-home abortion, were pointed out.
Citing a “Mystery Client Investigation” undertaken by Christian Concern, SPUC’s paper highlighted how easy it was for women to:
- Give a false name
- Give fictional medical history and gestational age
- Give false information about her usual GP surgery.
SPUC’s analysis of “DIY” at home abortion also points out why it is so critical for a woman to be seen in person, and highlights why ultrasound is particularly important.
The following are essential reasons why women ought to be seen in person as reported by SPUC:
The gestation of the pregnancy can be established by an ultrasound scan (a crucial consideration when the pills can only be used up to a certain gestation).
The time of drug ingestion is known accurately in relation to gestational age.
She can be assessed to determine if a medical abortion is suitable for her.
Consent can be gained.
She is seen alone, which could, in theory, help to ensure that she is not being coerced.At-home abortions: the case against a permanent policy, spuc.org.uk
When a woman is not upfront to the clinical staff about her medical history and current situation, she places her own health at risk. When clinicians rely solely on technology to undertake consultations, they put their patients at serious risk of complications.
New abortion centres popping up
Provision of first trimester abortion on the West Coast follows after the addition of a new provider in Blenheim.
Civic Family Health Care is publicly listed as an early medical abortion provider (up to 9 weeks). The medical centre is the first of its kind to be listed publicly as a location where abortion may be obtained. All other providers to date are abortion facilities, hospitals, sexual health clinics, or Family Planning clinics.
It is important for pro-life patients to note that it is possible for GP’s, midwives, and nurse practitioners to obtain up to 15 mifepristone tablets and up to 120 misoprostol tablets on a Practitioner’s Supply Order (PSO). The two drugs are taken within 72 hours of each other to procure an abortion. Medical practitioners may then have them on hand in the practice.
On its website, the Ministry of Health explains that while it “holds a list of abortion service providers, providers are not required to have their details publicly listed.” Its goal is “to support primary care practitioners to provide abortion services.” If your local medical centre is providing early medical abortions, the information may never be made public.
What you can do
If you are concerned that your local medical centre may be participating in providing abortions, in the first instance, please make contact with the Practice Manager.
As an individual, you may write respectfully ask if the practice has registered to provide early medical abortions, or if they, or individual practitioners within their practice, are making use of the Practitioner’s Supply Order (PSO) system to obtain the abortion drugs.
Politely explain that abortion is not something that you would like to be associated with. The practice manager’s response will determine what steps to take next, if any.