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Women Will Now Be Able To Have An Abortion At Home During Lockdown

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Women Will Now Be Able To Have An Abortion At Home During Lockdown

Women in England will be able to have an abortion at home for the first time, the Department of Health and Social Care has confirmed.

While the government announced last week that women would be able to take abortion pills at home during the coronavirus crisis, they subsequently retracted the decision, saying it had been published in error.

But now, following a string of abortion clinic closures, a DHSC spokesperson has announced that women who require an abortion up to 10 weeks into their pregnancy will be able to use termination pills at home.

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Following reports over the this weekend - which suggested that the government would be updating measures in line with the UK's coronavirus lockdown - the DHSC said: "Public safety and continued access to key services is our priority during this difficult period.

"We are updating our guidance so women who need an abortion up to ten weeks and can't access a clinic can use abortion pills at home.

"This will be on a temporary basis and must follow a telephone or e-consultation with a doctor."

The announcement comes after the government was heavily criticised for dismissing the needs of women seeking a termination during the ongoing pandemic.

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Campaigners have long been urging the government to act, following reports that a number of abortion clinics and services had been forced to close due to COVID-19.

A spokesperson has announced guidance will be updated (Credit: PA)
A spokesperson has announced guidance will be updated (Credit: PA)

Edward Morris, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, warned last week that abortion services in England were "on the brink of collapse".

The British Pregnancy Advice Service (BPAS), revealed it had been forced to close 20 clinics - with 1,120 appointments cancelled - last week, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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Clinics have been closing for a variety of coronavirus-related reasons, including consultants being unwell - or having to self-isolate at home and therefore being unable to carry out procedures and consultations.

Other staff shortages have occurred because healthcare workers have been deployed to other areas.

Women will be able to take abortion pills at home if they cannot access a clinic (Credit: Unsplash)
Women will be able to take abortion pills at home if they cannot access a clinic (Credit: Unsplash)

With increasing pressure mounting on the government, Women on Web - an organisation which provides medical abortion for women in countries where they cannot access a legal termination - said it had seen an increased number of "heartbreaking" enquiries from UK women.

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Without the new measures, it's expected that over 44,000 women (many with underlying health conditions) would need to leave their homes to access an abortion, placing them and others at risk of contracting the virus.

Prior to the announcement, abortions in England could only be carried out in a hospital and had to be approved by two doctors.

In Scotland and Wales, however, women are already able to take abortion pills at home. The new guidance from the Department of Health and Social care is expected to last for two years - or until the crisis is over.

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Ann Furedi, CEO of BPAS said: "We welcome the confirmation we have received today that the government will re-instate telemedicine for Early Medical Abortion in England.

"This will prevent tens of thousands of women from having to travel needlessly to clinics and will also enable many of our healthcare professionals to provide teleconsultations and prescriptions from the safety of their own homes.

"BPAS staff have shown superhuman strength over recent weeks in order to prevent the collapse of services and ensure women can access the care they need.

"We thank them for their dedication during what continues to be an immensely difficult time for all those working in healthcare.

"Despite today's announcement, we remain extremely concerned about the ability of women in other parts of the UK to access abortion care during the pandemic.

"In Northern Ireland, abortion care is now lawful, but services have not yet been established and telemedical abortion care is not permitted under the regulations produced by the government last week.

"As a result, women are being forced to travel hundreds of miles via ferry and public transport to clinics in England at a time when they are also being told to stay at home to save lives.

"We urge policymakers to now implement similar measures to permit telemedical abortion services in Northern Ireland as a matter of urgency."

Featured Image Credit: Pexels

Topics: News, Coronavirus, abortion

Lucy Devine
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