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Social Justice

Early ‘pills by post’ abortions service could be made permanent by MPs

MPs will vote on whether or not to keep early telemedical abortions after the House of Lords passed an amendment to the Health and Care Bill.

MPs are set to vote on whether to allow pregnant women to undertake early ‘pills by post’ medical abortions at home, after the House of Lords passed an amendment to the Health and Care Bill.

The English government had already scrapped at-home early medical abortions after deciding not to extend temporary legislation brought in over the pandemic. It expires at the end of August, after which women will have to attend an abortion clinic in person to receive the treatment.

But the amendment to the Health and Care Bill, added by Tory peer Baroness Sugg, would update The Abortion Act to make the home of a pregnant woman an approved place to receive the medical care up to 10 weeks.

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Campaigners are urging people to write to their MP asking them to support the amendment, and argue that there is “no reason for telemedicine and self-managed abortions not to become a permanent healthcare provision.”

One of those campaigns is the online forum for mothers, Mumsnet, who are encouraging people to tweet their local MP, using the hashtag #KeepTelemedicalAbortion. Justine Roberts, founder and CEO of Mumsnet told The Big Issue: “When we asked Mumsnet users, 77 per cent of them were in favour of retaining telemedical abortion permanently. MPs should listen to women (and pretty much all the medical experts) and vote to retain the provision of telemedical abortion next week”.

“Victims of domestic abuse, and women who live with controlling partners, for example, may be unable to leave the house to attend in-person consultations,” says Abortion Rights.

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“Cost of travel, cost of childcare and time off work all mean that women in lower socio-economic groups have to overcome many barriers to access abortion services if telemedicine is not an option.”

The Department for Health and Social Care said the majority of the 18,000 plus consultation responses it received when deciding whether to extend the temporary legislation were in favour of ending the service. Domestic abuse and coercion of women was raised as a concern.

But the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) says: “This decision is a political one that discriminates against women, and not one based on sound medical evidence.”

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When proposing the amendment, Baroness Sugg told the Lords: “If accepted, it would maintain the existing provision of at-home early medical abortion following a telephone or video consultation with a clinician.”

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