FSRH press release: majority of women in the UK want medical abortion at home to be allowed permanently beyond the pandemic
Date: 16 Dec 2021
Type: FSRH Press Releases and Statements
An independent poll of more than 1100 women across the UK shows that a clear majority (65%) want telemedicine for early medical abortion to remain as a permanent option. This compares to only 15% who do not support.
- Under temporary rules introduced by the Government during COVID-19, women are allowed to take two pills for an early medical abortion (an abortion up to 10 weeks' gestation) at home. This follows a video consultation with a qualified nurse or midwife to assess whether they are safe to do so.
- Governments in England, Scotland and Wales are currently consulting on whether to continue allowing women and pregnant people to have abortions at home via telemedicine once the pandemic ends.
- A growing body of evidence shows that telemedicine for early medical abortions is safe, effective, more accessible and preferred by women.
- Leading doctors in women’s health call on Governments not to ignore women’s voices and make telemedicine for early medical abortions permanently legal.
The independent poll, conducted by Savanta Com-Res, shows that the great majority of women and pregnant people in the UK would like to continue to have the option to access early medical abortion care via telemedicine, with only a small minority (15%) disagreeing.
At the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, Governments across the UK amended legislation to enable women to access early medical abortions at home temporarily. The measures have had a hugely positive impact. Evidence from a 2021 study of more than 50,000 abortions before and after the change in England and Wales shows that telemedical abortion provision is effective, safe, acceptable and improves access to essential healthcare. Waiting times between initial consultation and treatment improved from 10.7 days to 6.5 days, with women receiving care at an earlier stage than they would otherwise, allowing them to access care within the comfort of their own homes.
Dr Asha Kasliwal, President of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), said:
“Telemedicine has enabled thousands of women to access essential healthcare during a time when travel and face-to-face consultations needed to be severely restricted due to risk of COVID-19 infection. As this new poll shows, telemedicine for early medical abortion is a valuable option for patients, who would like to have continued access to this service once COVID-19 restrictions end.
“Allowing home use of both abortion pills for early medical abortion enhances access to essential reproductive healthcare. Evidence shows that the vast majority of women prefer to access abortion care via telemedicine in comparison to face-to-face appointments in a clinic.
“This is not about choosing between face-to-face and remote consultations; this is about ensuring that all options are available so that patients can get the best treatment that suits their needs and preferences.
“We can hear women’s voices in these results. There is no reason for Governments to delay making telemedicine for early medical abortion a permanent feature of healthcare. We urge Governments across the UK to listen to women and make the regulations that allow for telemedical abortion services to become permanent.”
Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), said:
“It’s clear from this survey that the majority of women want to see the telemedicine service continue in the UK. We would therefore urge the UK Government to listen to women, and medical professionals, and commit to making this service permanent.
“As medical experts, we want to stress that early medical abortions at home are safe, effective and more accessible, and there is absolutely no reason why this service shouldn’t remain in place.
“The healthcare system has faced immense pressure since the start of the pandemic and this is set to continue for the foreseeable future. That’s why it’s crucial that services which make it easier for women to have control over their sexual and reproductive health stays in place.”
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Notes to Editors
- The poll was conducted by Savanta: ComRes between 03-05 December 2021.
- The Savanta: ComRes poll follows various pieces of research published recently showing that telemedicine for early medical abortion care is safe, effective, more accessible and preferred by women. The 2021 study mentioned in this press release shows that 80% of women reported that telemedicine was their preferred option and that they would choose it in the future. The study can be found here.
- At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ministers in England, Scotland, and Wales granted temporary permission for early medical abortion treatment to be received by post following a telemedical consultation to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. This move has allowed more than 100,000 women to end pregnancies from the comfort and privacy of their own homes. Following public consultations, the governments in England, Wales, and Scotland are currently considering whether or not to make telemedicine a permanent option for women.
- FSRH and RCOG support calls from across the charity and medical sectors to see the continuation of telemedicine beyond the pandemic, including backing from British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), MSI Reproductive Choices and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).
The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) is the largest UK professional membership organisation working at the heart of sexual and reproductive health (SRH), supporting healthcare professionals to deliver high quality care. It works with its 15,000 members, to shape sexual reproductive health for all. It produces evidence-based clinical guidance, standards, training, qualifications and research into SRH. It also delivers conferences and publishes the journal BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health in partnership with the BMJ.
The RCOG is a medical charity that champions the provision of high-quality women’s healthcare in the UK and beyond. It is dedicated to encouraging the study and advancing the science and practice of obstetrics and gynaecology. It does this through postgraduate medical education and training and the publication of clinical guidelines and reports on aspects of the specialty and service provision.