'Pills by post' home abortion scheme to be axed

24 February 2022, 16:47

Ministers have ended the 'pills by post' abortion scheme
Ministers have ended the 'pills by post' abortion scheme. Picture: Alamy

By Stephen Rigley

'Pills by post' home abortions will be axed by the end of the summer despite warnings from health unions.

During the Covid pandemic women seeking to terminate their pregnancy in the first 10 weeks were able to take pills at home and avoid having to see a doctor in person.

However ministers said that from August 29, England will revert to pre-pandemic rules which require women to take the first abortion pill in a clinic or a hospital although the second one can be taken at home.

Health minister Maggie Throup said: "After careful consideration, the Government's view is that the provision of early medical abortion should return to pre-Covid arrangements.

"The wellbeing and safety of women requiring access to abortion services has been, and will continue to be, our first and foremost priority.

"Thanks to the success and impact of the national vaccination and booster programme, we are in a very different position compared to the beginning of the pandemic."

Pro-life charities said the scheme was allowing some women to be pushed into having an abortion and that the pills were being used beyond the ten-week limit.

But more than 30 medical groups joined forces to call for home abortions to be made permanent.The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Royal College of Midwives and the British Medical Association, and others expressed their 'deep and urgent concern' in a letter to Boris Johnson yesterday.

They said that removing home access to the pills, used by 2,000 women a week, was wrong and it has slashed waiting times and allowed for earlier terminations which are safer.

Medical abortion — which can only be carried out up to 24 weeks of pregnancy — involves taking two different medicines. They are different to the 'morning after' pill.

Under pre-pandemic rules, women took the first pill to terminate a pregnancy at an abortion clinic or hospital under supervision from a clinician.

They were then able to take the second at home up to 48 hours later. When the virus struck, however, ministers shifted to allowing both pills to be taken at home following a teleconsultation to ensure women still had access to the service.

A short-term extension of the temporary approval will be made to enable a safe and reliable return to pre-pandemic arrangements and continued access to services.