Doctors are calling for women to be allowed to take the abortion pill at home.
As it stands women seeking to terminate their pregnancy via an early medical abortion (EMA) are required to take two tablets, mifepristone and misoprostol, in a licensed clinic or hospital, 24 hours apart.
But the side effects of the second pill can begin within thirty minutes, meaning women can begin to experience cramps, vomiting and significant bleeding on their way home from the clinic, often on public transport.
So leading officials from the British Society of Abortion Care Providers, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare are pushing for a change in the law, which would allow women to take the second pill at home.
Last month the Welsh government opted to legalise take-home abortion pills, while the Scottish government announced their decision to legalise the practice last October.
“We urge the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to use his powers to extend to women in England the same compassion, respect, and dignity that the Scottish and Welsh governments have announced, so that all women can access safe, effective abortion care,” write Professor Lesley Regan, Dr Asha Kasliwal, Dr Jonathan Lord, and colleagues in an editorial in the journal BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health.
“There can be no justification not to act unless the aim is to punish women having a legal abortion,” they insist. “The time for action is now.”
The doctors go on to explain that having to return to a clinic or hospital for a second visit can impact those who struggle with having to take repeated time off work, childcare, transport difficulties or distance from the abortion service.
“Furthermore, it selectively disadvantages the most vulnerable – those who are deprived, live in rural areas or have dependants,” they add, citing data on 28,000 women from one of the UK’s largest abortion providers.
An estimated one in three women will have an abortion by the time they reach the age of 45. The majority of abortions take place early in the pregnancy when a medical procedure is most effective.
The survey cited also revealed that 85 per cent of women opted to take both pills at the same time rather than make a return visit to the abortion service, despite knowing that this method was less effective and associated with a higher complication rate.
Recent research published in the Contraception journal found that there has been a dramatic rise in the number of women illegally buying abortion pills online, from just 5 pills in 2013 to 375 in 2016.
Experts believe that allowing women to take the pill at home could help reduce this figure and stop potential medical complications.
The study authors also suggest that allowing women to take the abortion pill at home would not only be better for “women’s dignity, privacy, and wellbeing,” but it would also be a “better use of resources for the NHS.”
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