For any NHS doctor, bringing new life into the world is an extraordinary privilege. And for Dr Dermot Kearney, smiling fondly at the trio of babies gurgling happily by his side, the knowledge that he played a small but crucial role in their arrival is particularly poignant.
But these three infants may never have been born were it not for his courageous intervention. The battles their families – and Dr Kearney – have fought have been deeply personal as well as medical.
In each case their mothers had, for their own reasons, chosen to start an abortion using NHS pills to terminate pregnancy.
Almost instantly, each of them became consumed with regret and desperate to reverse the process after taking the first of two tablets that sets it in motion.
Scouring the internet for an answer, they came across the details of Dr Kearney who, they discovered, was prescribing a hormone naturally found in the body which supports pregnancy. He became a saviour to them and their babies.
In just 12 months, the medic says, the unlicensed treatment – not available on the NHS – has preserved the lives of up to 32 babies in the UK, and saved their mothers from a lifetime of potential turmoil at their decision.
Indeed, the babies’ doting parents will forever be indebted to this softly spoken Irishman, who they describe as a lifesaver.
For any NHS doctor, bringing new life into the world is an extraordinary privilege. And for Dr Dermot Kearney, smiling fondly at the trio of babies gurgling happily by his side, the knowledge that he played a small but crucial role in their arrival is particularly poignant
However, for this compassionate service – which he provided for no fee and which is deeply rooted in his Christian faith – Dr Kearney found himself subject to an investigation by the doctors’ regulator, the General Medical Council, which could have seen him struck off.
Last May he was banned from providing the treatment after complaints were made by abortion provider MSI Reproductive Choices, formerly known as Marie Stopes.
But now the GMC has dropped all sanctions against the doctor – and will no longer pursue its investigation – after concluding that there was no evidence of wrongdoing.
It speaks volumes about Dr Kearney’s approach that the GMC could find no women prepared to act as witnesses to complain about their treatment.
On the contrary, the watchdog was inundated with statements from those who praised his ‘kind and caring’ attitude at what was undoubtedly one of the worst moments of their lives.
Today, speaking to The Mail on Sunday in his first interview, Dr Kearney is ‘delighted and relieved’ to have been exonerated.
When Amrita Kaur saw her healthy baby girl on an ultrasound scan, she was overjoyed – but also relieved. A week earlier, the 26-year-old model from Leamington Spa had ‘panicked’ and taken an abortion pill sent to her in the post following a telephone consultation with her local abortion clinic
But there is frustration, too, at his lengthy ordeal and what he says amounted to an ‘orchestrated campaign’ against him by the abortion lobby.
He says: ‘When I look at the babies, when I speak to the women and their partners, it brings tears to my eyes.
‘None of the women I helped complained to the GMC, and none of the families either. The women themselves were all very grateful, even when it didn’t work. I struggle to understand why some people oppose this treatment.
‘I’ve been the target of an orchestrated campaign by the abortion industry to stop pro-life doctors like me from offering abortion pill reversal (APR) treatment.’
Much of the criticism points to the lack of clinical trial evidence proving the treatment that Dr Kearney provides is effective.
But cradling two babies in his arms, and gesturing to another nearby, he says: ‘Look at the wonderful evidence – it’s right here.’
The parents of the babies could not be clearer about the impact Dr Kearney has had on their lives.
For this compassionate service – which he provided for no fee and which is deeply rooted in his Christian faith – Dr Kearney found himself subject to an investigation by the doctors’ regulator, the General Medical Council, which could have seen him struck off.
One young couple, whose backgrounds meant that having a baby out of wedlock was taboo, said it ‘felt like Dr Kearney was our only friend’.
Their families’ opposition, their age and financial situation meant they felt on a ‘conveyor belt’ towards a termination. But today, beaming alongside eight-month-old son Khalid, they say the treatment was ‘the best decision we’ve made’.
Another mother, cradling ten-month-old Sonny, said: ‘Without Dr Kearney we wouldn’t have him, this beautiful life. We didn’t even know Dr Kearney was Christian until months later.’
Her partner added: ‘He even offered to pay £70 for a private scan. To find there was such kindness in the world was phenomenal. It felt so selfless I cried.’
It’s stories like these which inspire father-of-two Dr Kearney, 56, to provide his unusual service.
The consultant cardiologist and Roman Catholic from the North-East of England said: ‘I just believe human life is sacred, regardless of the religious context. And I believe it’s there from conception.’
He and a colleague started offering a treatment to ‘reverse’ medical abortions – which use drugs to induce a miscarriage – shortly before the Government gave the green light to an NHS ‘pills by post’ service in April 2020 at the start of the pandemic.
My adorable daughter… born after a panicked abortion pill
When Amrita Kaur saw her healthy baby girl on an ultrasound scan, she was overjoyed – but also relieved.
A week earlier, the 26-year-old model from Leamington Spa had ‘panicked’ and taken an abortion pill sent to her in the post following a telephone consultation with her local abortion clinic.
‘I’d just started to make some money from modelling and my friends said I had my whole life in front of me,’ she said.
Amrita Kaur with her four-month-old daughter Ahri-Storm
‘I did it in a moment of anger and upset.’
But she instantly regretted swallowing the pill and, distraught, found Dr Kearney on the internet.
‘He was very understanding, telling me “There’s a route we can take”. So I took the progesterone pills and I’ve never looked back. I adore my daughter.’
Ahri-Storm is now four months old, and Amrita is adamant that Dr Kearney has ‘not done anything wrong’.
‘This treatment should be available to those who need it and want it,’ she said.
It meant women could be assessed by telephone instead of in person, which led to concerns more would opt to go through with the procedure without thinking it through. It is not yet clear if this has increased the number of abortions overall.
If women are within the first ten weeks of pregnancy, are otherwise healthy and have considered alternative options, they are sent two pills to take 24 to 48 hours apart.
The first, mifepristone, causes the uterine wall which harbours the foetus to break down and the second, misoprostol, stimulates contractions to expel it.
There is no officially approved way to stop the process if, after taking the first pill, a woman changes her mind before taking the second. NHS advice is simply to ‘watch and wait’ to see if the pregnancy continues.
Some will still have babies, although the proportion is unclear. NHS England estimates the chance of such a pregnancy continuing is between 8 and 40 per cent.
Progesterone is already used as a treatment to help pregnant women with a history of miscarriage to keep their babies. However, no ‘gold standard’ trial has proved it works to stop abortions.
Dr Kearney began offering ‘abortion reversal’ – a progesterone pill taken daily for up to three weeks –after checking that medical authorities did not object. Most women found him by searching online for ways to reverse an abortion, and finding a US pro-life organisation which put them in touch.
‘Most were anxious, nervous and apprehensive,’ he said. ‘They were talking to a stranger about such a personal matter, and wanted to know their prospects for success.
‘I never gave any guarantees it would work, and outlined the risks.’
Of the 150 or so women who enquired about APR, 65 went on to take a full course of progesterone.
Of those, 32 had healthy babies. Dr Kearney claims this amounts to a success rate of almost 50 per cent – saying this roughly doubles the chances offered by the NHS ‘watch and wait’ approach if poorly designed studies are disregarded.
Dr Kearney’s wife Mary described his dedication. He would often come home after a hospital shift, mobile clasped to his ear, talking to women ‘in a desperate state’ and trying to find their nearest open pharmacy to maximise their chances of success, she said.
‘He is such a careful doctor, and so caring,’ she said.
Dr Kearney admits that it hasn’t been easy. He almost gave up in the early days after the treatment failed for three women in a row.
‘The hardest were those where the pregnancy persisted, only to perish a couple of weeks later,’ he recalls.
Abortion providers accuse pro-life medics of ‘cherry-picking’ cases and fear women who only take one abortion pill may be at increased risk of heavy bleeding, compared with those who take both.
Dr Kearney admits three women they treated needed blood transfusions due to bleeding.
‘I always pointed out that by not taking the second abortion pill they might bleed more. They were always happy to go ahead, knowing there was a small risk. Progesterone does not cause the bleeding.’
The GMC began investigating Dr Kearney early last year following a complaint by MSI’s medical director, Dr Jonathan Lord.
He claimed Dr Kearney had ‘imposed his personal beliefs’ on two patients and that, as president of the UK Catholic Medical Association, it was ‘highly unlikely he could offer objective, impartial advice’.
Dr Kearney was left ‘perplexed’ by the claims, which he says were both ‘unfair and untrue’.
In the end, the GMC’s case was dropped due to lack of evidence after no patients made a complaint and one said she was ‘blown away by his kindness’.
Today, Dr Kearney says he is ‘disappointed’ the GMC took action against him in the first place. He said: ‘The abortion lobby tried to use the GMC to shut us down. But the case clarified that what we were doing isn’t a question of misconduct.’
Last night, Dr Lord maintained that using progesterone for APR, ‘without any known benefit… risks exploiting patients when they are in a distressed and vulnerable state’.
He added that research showed ‘very few’ women regret having a medical abortion and those who do should be seeking help from ‘legitimate NHS services’.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of lobby group Christian Concern, whose Christian Legal Centre has supported Dr Kearney’s case, described the medic as ‘heroic’, saying: ‘We are delighted that justice has been served for this brilliant and compassionate doctor.’