*Update: After campaigning for a whole year to keep “at-home” abortion care, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) announced that the service would remain active. On February 24, 2022, the UK Government confirmed that this is a six moth extension for the permission for the service to continue. MPs have finally voted to keep the at-home early abortion service in England, known as telemedicine abortion, on March 30, 2022.
An independent British healthcare charity started a campaign for the continuation of the “at-home” abortion care a year ago. The service provides home care to women seeking a termination since the beginning of the pandemic. Called “Care, Not Criminalization,” the campaign by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) aimed to keep the service going, even when lockdowns are lifted.
“Accessing an abortion at home is about to become a crime for women in the UK,” said the BPAS campaign. The charity has been advocating and caring for women who decide to end a pregnancy for more than 50 years. According to them, the decision on whether to continue sending the pills for an at-home pregnancy termination by post service was “sitting on the desk” of MP Maggie Throup, Minister for Vaccines and Public Health.
The at-home abortion - or telemedical abortion care - was introduced for the first time in the UK in March 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. With these new rules, women could take both pills necessary for an early medical abortion (an abortion that happens within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy) at home and for the first time in Britain.
However, even before the pandemic, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) recommended that the NHS should provide this service. They recognize that “pills by post” have been proven “safe, accessible and effective” for women in general, especially the vulnerable ones. “Multiple peer-review studies have found that telemedicine is safe, effective, and preferred by a majority of women,” they wrote.
The British government was said to be considering the removal of the regulation that would allow this service to keep being offered. “We are campaigning to keep telemedical abortion care,” said the BPAS’ website at the time. “Telemedical abortion care has been of significant benefit to women in the most challenging of circumstances who may struggle to access in-clinic care.”
According to the BPAS, before the telemedical abortion care was introduced, many women struggled to get an abortion. Those more at risk to be failed by the old system were women who experienced domestic abuse, those unable to leave their homes safely or ones in care of disabled children. Their difficulty to access in-clinic care could mean that they might seek the purchase of abortion medication online and face criminalization, including life imprisonment.
“Revoking telemedicine would place the safety of vulnerable women and girls at risk for entirely political purposes. To do so would be utterly cruel,” wrote the BPAS in their campaign information. The charity aske supporters to take direct action by sending an email to MP Throup, with a sample text for easy campaigning to be sent to the MP from the BPAS website.
In their Twitter, BPAS wrote on February 2, 2022: "We are so grateful to healthcare bodies, women's rights charities, and our amazing supporters in securing permission for this vitally important service. This will be of benefit to 100,000+ women every year."
"Every letter, email, and tweet made a difference."
The BPAS believes that revoking permission for at-home early medical abortion would have led to "increased waiting times, a shortfall of appointments and a 43% increase in terminations post-20 weeks."
After the government announced that this was only a six month extension, the BPAS stated that if the UK revokes the legal permission for this service, it would be a "shameful betrayal of women and a decision devoid of both evidence or justice." On March 30, 2022, MPs have voted to keep the at-home early abortion service in England, known as telemedicine abortion. According to Sophia Smith Galer, Vice reporter, it was 215 votes, against 188.
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