On 30 March, MPs voted to make permanent the previously temporary arrangement allowing ‘at home’ abortions to take place in England. These are circumstances where a woman can take both sets of abortion pills outside a clinical environment without an ultrasound-dating scan to determine the baby’s gestation nor an in-person consultation with a medical professional in a hospital or clinic for up to the first 10 weeks of the pregnancy.
There have been a number of safety and safeguarding issues that have come to light since the introduction of home abortions. A nationwide undercover investigation in 2020 found evidence of abortion providers putting women at significant risk by not carrying out basic checks before sending them ‘at-home’ abortion pills. It appears likely that medical complications from ‘at-home’ abortion are being underreported, and self-administration makes it much more challenging, if not impossible, to ascertain if abuse or coercion is involved on the basis of a phone or video call.
Given both Houses have voted to make this change in law, it is not possible to now overturn this decision without another vote in Parliament, which is very unlikely to happen shortly, but there is an opportunity to make evidence-based recommendations to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to mitigate some of the harms of the policy for women and girls and their unborn babies.
The DHSC is currently updating the guidance given to abortion providers in light of the change of law. This is an opportunity to make realistic recommendations to improve aspects of the policy. The letter below has been drafted in consultation with medics, drawing on a range of expertise and experience.
If you are a medical professional, please take action by putting your name on the letter below to the DHSC calling for abortion providers to do more to mandate face-to-face appointments for women, to better protect children, young people and vulnerable adults, and to do more to seek confirmaton on gestational limits and consent, amongst other recommendations.