With coalition of charities, we call on Government to permanently legalise at-home early medical abortion care

Posted 14 May 2021

Date: 14 May 2021

Type: FSRH News and Information

Today, alongside a coalition of charities and organisations, we have published a letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock, and Helen Whately , Minister of State for Care, demanding the continuation of telemedicine for early medical abortion beyond the pandemic.

Apart from FSRH, signatories include the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), the Royal College of Midwives, Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis, Amnesty International, MSI Reproductive Choices UK and Stonewall.

At the start of the 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, and announcements are expected in the coming weeks.

Read the letter in full:

Helen Whately MP, Minister of State for Care
The Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
Department of Health and Social Care
39 Victoria Street

14 May 2021

Dear Ministers,

Back in March 2020, you changed abortion regulations to allow telemedical early medical abortion care. This has meant that women across England have been able to continue to access abortion care during the pandemic by having medication posted to them following a telephone consultation with a qualified nurse or midwife.

The impact of this change has been significant and overwhelmingly positive. A study of more than 50,000 abortions before and after the change in England and Wales, recently published by the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology concluded that telemedical abortion provision is ‘effective, safe, acceptable, and improves access to care’. Evidence shows that access to a hybrid model of care that includes telemedical abortion care has reduced waiting times and allowed pregnancies to be terminated at the earliest gestations, making the procedure safer. The study also found that there is no difference in the safety and efficacy of telemedical abortion care compared to in-clinic care.

Telemedical care also removes access barriers across the board. We know that for many, being required to take medication in a clinic is difficult. Clinics can be far from a client’s home, they may need to take time off work, associated travel and childcare costs can be high. Some women are disproportionately likely to encounter difficulties when required to attend a clinic for treatment – including those with caring responsibilities, victim-survivors of sexual violence and domestic abuse, teenagers, those on low incomes or in insecure work, LGBTI people, disabled women, Black and minoritized women, migrant women, homeless women, women with mental health or substance use issues, and women with insecure immigration status. The ability to provide the option of telemedicine as part of a full, holistic service enables providers to tailor care to individual clients and their needs and allows women to access healthcare no matter their circumstances.

As you consider whether to make permanent the regulations that allow for telemedical abortion care, we ask that you place women, girls, and all people who need abortion care at the heart of your decision-making. In a BPAS review of client satisfaction, 97% of clients were satisfied or very satisfied with their experience, and 80% of clients reported that receiving pills via post or telephone consultation and pill collection from a clinic is their preferred method of care – figures which are supported by other major abortion providers. To revoke the regulations that allow for this care would be to ignore these voices. With clinical bodies and evidence showing that early medical abortion care is safe effective, there is no clinical argument for reinstating restrictions. All that revoking telemedical abortion care would do is service to make access to abortion more difficult and distressing – for entirely political purposes.

We hope the Department of Health and Social Care will recognise the positive step telemedical abortion care is for the progress of women’s health policy-making in the UK and will choose to stand with women and all those who need abortion care by making regulations that allow for telemedical abortion services to become permanent.

Yours Sincerely,

Abortion Rights Campaign
Amnesty International (UK)
British Medical Association
British Pregnancy Advisory Service
British Society of Abortion Care Providers
Doctors for Choice UK
End Violence Against Women Coalition
Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH)
Fawcett Society
Humanists UK
International Planned Parenthood Federation
Maternity Action
MSI Reproductive Choices
National Education Union (NEU)
National Union of Students (NUS)
Rape Crisis England & Wales
Royal College of Midwives
Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists
Safe Abortion Action Fund
Sister Supporter
Vagina Museum
Women’s Aid Federation of England