When Antonia Tully of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children interviewed me about our mystery client investigation, we talked about my previous work overseas for and with Marie Stopes. Her piece touches on the question ‘So what changed?’
Ahead of a virtual meeting in the House of Commons this Thursday, former Marie Stopes International employee talks to Antonia Tully of SPUC about his career with MSI and the mystery client project which lifts the lid off DIY abortions in Britain.
Kevin Duffy spent six years working in Africa and South Asia for and with Marie Stopes International (MSI) – now MSI Reproductive Choices. By the time he took up his role with MSI, he had had a long, high level career in financial management at an international level.
From 2013 until 2017, Kevin was responsible for the development of MSI’s clinics in more than 550 clinics, across 37 countries. Between March 2017 and March 2019 he was engaged by MSI as an independent consultant to provide expertise to increase delivery of MSI services across East and Southern Africa and South Asia.
During six years working for and with MSI he visited 15 countries where MSI operates and conducted management review visits in more than 100 of its clinics.
On his watch Kevin helped to develop strategies to increase the numbers of abortions performed in MSI clinics. The organisation has stated over the last few years in its annual reports how it is committed to doubling the number of its abortion service provision worldwide.
Kevin Duffy has been on the inside of one of the largest abortion providers in the world. Now he is working with pro-life organisations in Britain. So what changed?
Kevin did not have a sudden pro-life conversion experience. It was more a falling out with the way in which MSI was delivering abortion. A falling out which led him to mastermind the recent mystery client project, commissioned by Christian Concern, which has exposed the unscrupulous way in which Marie Stopes and other British abortion providers are sending out abortion drugs in the “pills by post” scheme introduced in March this year.
But to go back to the beginning; what attracted Kevin to MSI in the first place? When he working as the CEO of a private healthcare provider in Uganda called International Medical Group, 2007-2012, Kevin became interested in the work of Marie Stopes Uganda.
“Of course, I was aware that Marie Stopes Uganda did abortions,” says Kevin, “and knew that induced abortion was illegal in most cases in Uganda. But at the time I considered it better from a public health perspective that women were able to have safe, clean, services when needed. I was very much buying into the harm reduction public health strategy.”
But what did he think of abortion? He says he always knew that abortion involved taking a human life, but felt that women were having abortions anyway so it’s better they take place in hygienic conditions. Working for MSI was a job which used his considerable expertise in financial and management strategy. And he just got on with it. No one was discussing the rights and wrongs of abortion and in his time at MSI he came across very few employees who were championing abortion rights. Abortion ideology was not part of day to day working life in MSI.
All the same, Kevin watched many abortions carried out by MSI clinicians and occasionally he would think to himself: “When I came into the room there were four people present and now there are only three”.
Kevin was also very aware of the opposition to abortion in Uganda. At the time, he could not persuade any of the senior Ugandan Nationals working with him at the International Medical Group to partner with Marie Stopes Uganda. They were adamant that abortion was illegal in Uganda and sat ill with their religious and cultural life.
MSI, however, began to change its approach to abortion delivery.
“From about 2015 – 2016, MSI began to emphasise a strategic push towards self-managed medical abortion, supplying abortion pills through pharmacies,” says Kevin. “I was never a supporter of this, preferring instead for women to receive comprehensive care in-clinic. Across the abortion sector there are many reports raising concerns that increasing numbers of women are presenting incomplete at clinics after self-administering abortion pills which they had bought in the local drug shops.”
Kevin had been willing to take the view that “comprehensive, safe abortion care” was necessary. But now he found himself very uncomfortable with MSI’s “all-out push” for abortion on demand through pharmacies. Why, he asked himself, would MSI, a UK-based organisation, promote medical abortion through pharmacies, which is not allowed in the UK, in countries where such means of inducing abortion is illegal?
This then was Kevin’s turning point. Not so much a sudden pro-life conviction, but a realisation of a deep hypocrisy within MSI about the treatment of women.
Kevin parted company with MSI in March 2019. He is careful to let me know that everything he tells me about MSI is in the public domain and so he feels free to comment on it.
In the spring of 2020, the announcement that women in the UK can get abortion pills through the post prompted the mystery client project Kevin worked on with Christian Concern. This is probably the most extensive insight we have had into how abortion providers operate in Britain. 26 sets of calls were made across BPAS, Marie Stopes and the National Unplanned Pregnancy Advisory Service, resulting in 26 packets of abortion pills being sent out to women who essentially did not exist.
After six years working at the heart of the abortion industry and personally witnessing hundreds of women have an abortion, Kevin says he was shocked by the results of the mystery client exercise: “To think that after just two phone calls taking no more than an hour in total, a woman who doesn’t exist, is not pregnant, is not registered at the recorded GP surgery, who misleads the service provider about her medical history and her gestational age, even changes her gestational age mid-process, is able to obtain the abortion pills, a service for which the abortion provider is paid by the NHS. And they call this a fantastic advance in women’s healthcare.”
Christian Concern has organised an online briefing for MPs on Thursday 10 December, at which Kevin will present the findings of the mystery client project. His strategic message to MPs is to lobby the Health Minister, Matt Hancock, to uphold his promise that sending abortion pills by post to women for self-managed abortions at home is only a temporary measure and that we must revert to the prior arrangements in which abortion providers must see women in clinics.
Kevin talks to me over the phone in straightforward and factual manner. At one point he asks me if I find him “too toxic” to be speaking to. I say no and ask him if he would like to see an end to abortion. He tells me he acknowledges that life begins at conception and he wants an end to abortion on demand. He is also deeply opposed to UK taxpayers’ money funding abortion in other countries. He is indignant that the UK government funds organisations like MSI which trample on the constitution of countries where abortion is illegal.
When he finished with MSI Kevin first thought about walking away from abortion altogether and looking for something completely different to do. But he changed his mind and decided to put his knowledge and experience at the service of the pro-life movement. We watch this space.
The post Inside Marie Stopes International: a former employee talks to SPUC was published by SPUC on December 07, 2020.