Doctors are called to save lives. There is surely nothing controversial about this statement. Indeed, it more or less sums up the purpose of medicine and the major reason why anyone would put themselves through the rigors of medical school and a stressful career, working long hours to look after people at their most vulnerable.
However, for Dr Dermot Kearney, a consultant cardiologist and past president of the Catholic Medical Association (UK), his desire to save the lives of unborn babies very nearly ended his career.
Dr Kearney’s troubles began when he and another doctor began prescribing progesterone treatment to women who had taken the first of two abortion pills and regretted the decision. Chemical abortion involves the taking of two pills 24 hours apart. It is an emotionally exhausting process, often undertaken alone, leaving plenty of time for regret between the taking of the first and second pills. Until Dr Kearney and his colleague began helping women in this situation the only option a regretful woman had was to go to Harley Street and pay up to £1000 to try and save their baby, a sum many simply cannot afford.
Dr Kearney never made any secret of his work. Though initially skeptical about the efficacy of progesterone treatment to reverse the abortion procedure, Dr Kearney was eventually convinced by the evidence and wrote to the General Medical Council (GMC) asking for guidance about women who change their mind during abortion. The GMC advised that women are entitled to know the available treatment options. Dr Kearney also represented the Catholic Medical Association (CMA) on the GMC’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Forum and gave a report to the forum about his work with abortion reversal treatment, during which no issue was raised.
It did not take long for the abortion lobby to target Dr Kearney, as he and his colleague found themselves summoned to a GMC hearing where they faced the very real risk of being struck off. The GMC’s legal representatives made no attempt to hide their hostility towards Dr Kearney and sought a complete suspension for 18 months against him. The tribunal eventually permitted him to continue to practice medicine but under a number of conditions. He was not permitted to perform any private or voluntary work without permission from the GMC and, crucially, he was forbidden from prescribing, administering or recommending abortion pill reversal.
The first review of Dr Kearney’s case came in August 2021. By this time, his legal team from Christian Concern had obtained nine witness statements from women Dr Kearney had helped. Some had successfully delivered their babies, others tragically had not, but they were unanimous in their support of Dr Kearney and the care he had given them. An expert witness who is not in sympathy with the pro-life cause provided a strong statement in support of Dr Kearney’s work.
Bizarrely, the GMC refused to consider any of the evidence, claiming that the review was not a fact-finding procedure, but was there to look at the allegations. This raised a few questions; what was the review for if not to seek the truth? Why hold a review in the first place if not to analyze the evidence?
Undeterred, in October 2021, Dr Kearney’s legal team made an application to the High Court. The basis for the application was that the investigation against Dr Kearney had been unnecessary, the conditions placed against him were unwarranted and the allegations without any foundation. They expected a long wait as the High Court was facing a massive backlog of cases following the Covid pandemic. However, the hearing was scheduled for February 24.
Though Dr Kearney was only suspended from providing abortion reversal treatment for nine months, nine months is a long time when women are being handed out abortion pills – as one woman put it – as easily as getting a takeaway. During those nine months, 160 women in the UK appealed to the abortion reversal treatment helpline and had to be told that they could not be helped. That’s 160 babies needlessly lost and 160 women left to pick up the pieces.
Having made the decision to go after two Catholic doctors, the GMC appears to have struggled to find an expert witness willing to back up its position. This is an embarrassing enough situation, as the GMC might have been expected to have discussed the case with experts before enthusiastically endorsing the abortion lobby’s allegations against Dr Kearney. Even more awkward for the GMC, when an expert witness was finally found, his statement was largely supportive of Dr Kearney’s work. The expert felt that there is an evidence base for progesterone treatment, flatly contradicting the GMC’s own position and debunking a major reason for the case against Dr Kearney. The expert also criticized the document provided by BSACP (the British Society of Abortion Care Providers, which includes groups such as MSI, BPAS and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists). The document was not available on PubMed and was only available to members of these organizations, whereas Dr Kearney’s evidence was more authoritative and had been published.
Abortion chain MSI put forward two cases against Dr Kearney, neither of whom proved as cooperative during the investigation as MSI had clearly hoped. One of the two women was very supportive of Dr Kearney. Not only did she fail to back up MSI’s criticisms, but her version of events also contradicted MSI’s own claims. The other woman refused to make any statement against Dr Kearney. MSI had dissuaded her from taking the progesterone treatment, but she maintained that she did not want to deny other women the opportunity to save their babies.
Faced with a High Court challenge, the GMC was left in an unenviable position. At the High Court, they would have to provide evidence that their case against Dr Kearney was justified and there simply was no evidence. By contrast, Dr Kearney’s team now had ten witness statements plus a strong expert witness statement and a stack of evidence gathered by AAPLOG (American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists) which included testimonies on abortion reversal treatment by Dr Donna Harrison. Having thoroughly painted themselves into a corner, the GMC made a final statement that there was no prospect of proving or finding any evidence to support the ten allegations against Dermot Kearney. The case has now been formally dropped.
I had the privilege of getting to know Dr Kearney over the long months during which he has had this case hanging over him. It is difficult to comprehend just how desperate the abortion lobby must be if it was prepared to persecute this softly spoken, deeply compassionate, and professional doctor. Speaking with him shortly after the story broke here in Britain, what is most striking is how at peace he is, despite living for so long with the constant threat of public disgrace and loss of career.
By standing up for his principles and reaching out to women desperate to save their babies, Dr Kearney found himself at the heart of what has been an incredibly ugly case, in which supposedly respectable medical institutions have behaved in a blatantly unjust and discriminatory manner. The RCOG alleged in writing that Dr Kearney and his colleagues could not be trusted to be non-directive in this field specifically because they were Catholic and the GMC endorsed this position without question. The Catholic Medical Association have sent a formal complaint to the GMC and are still awaiting an explanation. In a society so concerned about inclusivity and diversity, it is deeply troubling to consider that the GMC could endorse such an openly anti-Catholic position. It is to be hoped that the Catholic Medical Association will receive a full apology and retraction, if nothing else to reassure young Catholic medics that they will be permitted to practice medicine in Britain without harassment.
Whether or not the credibility of the GMC can recover is another matter. When a pandemic was raging across the country, it beggars belief that the GMC should have wasted time and resources on the persecution of two doctors who had the temerity to try to save lives. Perhaps the GMC will now think twice about making a presumption of guilt against any doctor without considering the evidence first. It is also to be hoped that abortion pill reversal can now begin to be offered to women in Britain once again. The abortion industry may not care about women who regret, but there are doctors around the country who are willing to help.
And what of Dr Kearney’s plans? Having just returned from a conference in the US, he seems a little bewildered to find himself being called a hero for doing what all doctors are trained to do – save lives. He tells me that he is happy to carry on working as a doctor and hopefully to establish a more widely available service to women. The irony is not lost on Dr Kearney, that the huge amount of attention his case is getting may well do more to raise awareness about abortion reversal treatment than any pro-life campaign could have done. He would love this service never to be necessary, he wants abortion to be unthinkable, but he is keen to point out that doctors must always be there for women who regret swallowing that pill. Thanks to a brave doctor’s fight against the medical establishment, abortion reversal treatment can begin again in Britain.
• Related at CWR: “Catholic doctor to challenge abortion pill reversal ban at UK High Court” (Feb 8, 2022) by CNA Staff
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