A vote on whether to make at-home abortion services permanent is heading to the Commons next week
If it passes, the amendment will mark the single biggest positive change to abortion care in the UK since the 1967 Abortion Act.
A vote on whether or not to make the provision of at-home abortion access in the UK permanent is set to take place in the House of Commons.
It was previously announced that the provision, which was introduced as part of emergency measures taken during the pandemic, would continue until 29 August, after which it would be revoked.
But as part of a new amendment to the government’s Health and Care Bill, there’s now a chance that the service could be made part of the UK’s abortion care system on a more permanent basis.
The amendment – which was tabled by the Conservative peer Baroness Sugg – was voted through the House of Lords last week and will now head to the Commons, where MPs will be voting whether or not to overturn the change.
If the amendment is passed, it would mark the single biggest positive change to abortion care in the UK since the Abortion Act of 1967, which provided women with a number of legal routes under which to access safe abortions.
This is good news for the hundreds of women who have benefitted from the provision of at-home services during the pandemic.
Since it was first introduced in 2020, research has indicated that the service has had a positive impact. Indeed, one study of 1,200 women published in the BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health journal showed that eight out of 10 patients preferred to access abortion telemedicine during the pandemic. And two-thirds of the women surveyed said they would choose to have an abortion at home if they needed to terminate another pregnancy, even without the threat of Covid-19.
But the positive impact of at-home abortions is not the only reason why introducing them on a permanent basis is so important: it also allows vulnerable women, including victims of domestic abuse, to seek care privately and safely, and will stop the surge in waiting times expected if the option of telemedicine was revoked.
Indeed, as Jonathan Lord, UK medical director for MSI Reproductive Choices, said when the government first announced its intention to revoke the service: “[The at-home abortion service] has reduced waiting times and offered greater choice, which is particularly vital for vulnerable clients, such as women in abusive relationships or anyone else who can’t safely travel to a clinic.
“If this service ends, everyone would be unnecessarily forced to travel to a hospital or clinic, often having to face the threat of anti-choice groups gathered outside, for the sole purpose of swallowing a tablet, which can be taken perfectly safely at home.”
Lord concluded: “This is a pro-choice country. It’s not too late for the government to listen to women who overwhelmingly want this service to stay.”
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