Women should be allowed to take abortion pills at home, say doctors

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Emily Reynolds
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Introducing Northern Ireland’s abortion robots

Currently, the law does not allow women to take the abortion pill at home. But a group of top doctors and activists wants that to change. 

A group of the world’s top doctors has urged the government to allow the abortion pill to be taken at home. 

Leading officials from the British Society of Abortion Care Providers, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare have urged the health secretary to change the law, which currently means women have to take the abortion pill, misoprostol, at a “licensed premises”. 

But many women experience the side effects of the pill within thirty minutes, meaning they can begin miscarrying on their way home – often on public transport. 

Writing in the journal BMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health, the team say that there is “no justification not to act unless the aim is to punish women having a legal abortion”. 

“This risks the distress of having the abortion while travelling back from the clinic, a trauma that would be entirely preventable if women were allowed to take the drugs at home,”  they write. “Furthermore, it selectively disadvantages the most vulnerable – those who are deprived, live in rural areas or have dependants.”

The Welsh and Scottish governments have already allowed the home use of the pill, with Welsh Health Secretary Vaughn Gething saying that the change offers “additional choice to women requesting an abortion and enables them to complete treatment in an environment where they feel most comfortable”.

“It will also reduce the burden currently placed on clinical resources, increase the availability of appointments for women who want to access termination of pregnancy services and enable a greater number of women to access abortion provision at an earlier point in their pregnancy,” he said. 

The effects of taking the abortion pill at a clinic, rather than at home, is well documented.

Activist Claudia Craig, who is campaigning for a change in the rules, has written extensively about the issue. 

Writing for The Independent, Craig said she “collapsed almost as soon as I got inside my home…and then started miscarrying and vomiting on the floor”.  

“I can’t imagine what it would have been like if we had been stuck in traffic for just two minutes longer,” she said. “And I was lucky that I could afford a taxi – many women cannot and have to travel home on public transport.”

And in an open letter to then-Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Craig argued that the home use of pills would have numerous benefits. 

“Allowing home use of Misoprostol for abortions would save the NHS money,” she writes. “It would relieve some of the strain on overstretched services. It would help women who live in poverty or are experiencing domestic violence to access abortions safely and it would save thousands of women like me from pain and distress.”

Images: Getty