From Tuesday (30th August), at-home early medical abortion will be permanently available to pregnant people in England and Wales.
Though experts have long argued for this form of abortion, it took the advent of a global pandemic for the British government to follow their advice. It was finally introduced in March 2020 as the UK went into its first lockdown.
Tuesday’s amendment to the Abortion Act will allow eligible people in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy (9 weeks and 6 days) to continue to access pills for early medical abortion through a teleconsultation. They will then be able to take both pills at home.
Maggie Throup, Minister for Public Health, said of the move: “The wellbeing and safety of women requiring access to abortion services is paramount. With these measures women will have more choice in how and where they access abortion services, while ensuring robust data is collected to ensure their continued safety.”
The news has been welcomed by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), which said: “We are absolutely delighted that following work by BPAS and clinicians across the sector earlier this year, MPs voted to follow the evidence and listen to women – supporting the continuation of this essential service.
“Having been in place since March 2020, we know that early abortion at home is safe, effective and an important option for women. We’ve provided our Pills by Post service to more than 125,000 women so far, and we look forward to continuing this service into September and beyond.”
Though at-home early medical abortions are a game-changer, it shouldn’t distract us from the fact that abortion law in the UK needs further reform.
“For too long, abortion has been treated as a ‘controversial’ subject in Britain,” Refinery29’s Vicky Spratt wrote last month. “It is not. Abortion is a fact of life.
“And yet the right to abortion is far more fragile than many people in Britain dare acknowledge. Why? Because doing so throws an ugly fact into sharp relief: a small but influential group of people who call themselves “pro life” don’t think that women and people with wombs should be able to choose what happens to their bodies.”
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