Women In England Are Now Allowed To Take The Abortion Pill At Home

The landmark ruling was announced by the Secretary Of State For Health And Social Care this morning

abortion protest

by Georgia Aspinall |

This morning, a landmark ruling by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has meant that it is now completely legal for women to take the abortion pill at home. Bringing England into line with Scotland and Wales, it comes after years of campaigning by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS).

A medical abortion involves taking two pills, mifepristone and misoprostol. While mifepristone works blocks the progesterone hormone causing the lining of the uterus to break down, misoprostol then makes the womb contract which results in loss of pregnancy. A similar experience to having a miscarriage, this causes bleeding, cramping and often nausea.

Prior to this ruling, both pills had to be taken in a clinic with the consent of two doctors, which means women either had to take both pills at once and risk having an abortion while travelling home or take the pills a few days apart and make two trips to a clinic. This has long been considered an archaic interpretation of the 1967 Abortion Act which states that all treatment for the termination of pregnancy must take place in NHS hospitals or clinics specifically licensed by the Secretary of State for Health. Designed to ensure surgical treatment were safe, this has been interpreted to include the medication for medical abortions, something that BPAS has campaigned against.

Because, it is actually completely safe for women to take the second abortion pill at home rather than in hospital, so much so that BPAS brought the case to High Court. While BPAS lost their initial case after objection by the Department of Health, the judge gave powers to the Secretary of State to ‘approve a wider range of place, including potentially the home, and the conditions on which such approval may be given relating to the particular medicine and the manner of its administration or use.’

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, has now decided to utilise these powers and allow for home use in a long-awaited move that finally gives women greater access to safe, more comfortable abortions.

‘We are delighted by this decision, which represents an outbreak of common sense,’ says Ann Furedi, chief executive of the BPAS, ‘It will dramatically improve the experience of the more than 100,000 women in England who undergo Early Medical Abortion every year. Bpas has long campaigned for this simple, evidence-based measure, which is standard practice across the world and endorsed by the World Health Organisation.’

‘The safety and efficacy of home use of misoprostol for early abortion has been well established for many years,’ she continued, ‘our only disappointment is that it has taken so long for a Health Secretary for England to authorise this, and that so many women have suffered needlessly in the interim.’

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