Early medical abortions will temporarily be able to take place at home, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has confirmed.
In a direct response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock has approved two temporary measures in England to limit the transmission of COVID-19.
These measure are that women and girls can take abortion pills up to 10 weeks into their pregnancy without the need to go to a clinic or a hospital and that registered medical practitioners can prescribe these pills from their own homes.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said in a statement: “Public safety and continued access to key services is our priority during this difficult period.
“From today, women who need an abortion up to 10 weeks and can’t access a clinic can use abortion pills at home.
“This measure will be on a temporary basis and must follow a telephone or e-consultation with a clinician.”
The spokesperson continued, clarifying that this change is for two years only or ‘until the crisis is over. It is not permanent’.
Last week, the DHSC published these changes to the abortion regulations but withdrew them later that day citing that they were ‘published in error’.
Before the new regulations were introduced, to get an abortion women needed to travel to a hospital or clinic to take the pill and undergo a medical abortion, and the pill was only available to women who were less than nine weeks into their pregnancy.
The changes to these regulations come after encouragement from organisations like the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Royal College of Midwives and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service urged the government to amend the abortion laws in order to stop women, who were seeking an abortion, undertaking non-essential travel to get to hospitals or clinics.
In response to the government’s decision to allow at-home abortions, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare said it ‘strongly welcomes the decision, which will protect women who seek abortion care during the COVID-19 outbreak’.
Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said in a statement: “We welcome today’s decision to allow women in England seeking an early medical abortion to remain at home, have their consultation performed remotely and be sent a treatment package through the post.
“Giving women the option of taking both abortion pills at home following a video consultation is safe and effective and has rightly been judged as a vital and necessary step if we are to limit the spread of COVID-19. Many women will no longer be forced to make the difficult decision between leaving their home and continuing with an unwanted pregnancy.
“This change in practice will reduce pressure on the health system while limiting the unnecessary risk of infection for women, their families and health workers.
“We now urge Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to introduce similar measures to help protect frontline staff.”