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Women in England and Wales to receive abortion care at home during COVID-19

UPDATE: Since this news item was originally published on 30 March, the Welsh Government, on 1 April, announced the women in Wales will also be able to access abortion care through e-consultations and take pills in their homes.

The Government will announce that it intends to publish guidance allowing women seeking an early abortion to take both pills used in the procedure at home. Up to now they have been required to take the first pill in a clinic under the supervision of two doctors, which is not deemed medically necessary. This change, campaigned for by pro-choice organisations including Humanists UK, will ease pressure on the NHS during the COVID-19 crisis.

A Department for Health and Social Care source explained, ‘we are updating our guidance so women who need an abortion up to ten weeks and can’t access a clinic can use abortion pills at home… This measure will be on a temporary basis and must follow a telephone or e-consultation with a doctor. We will set out the next steps, including updated guidance, shortly.’

It is estimated that 44,000 women in England will need access to abortion services over the next 13 weeks, but are likely to face significant challenges in accessing care due to COVID-19 outbreak restrictions, including the closing of many abortion clinics.

The situation regarding home use of abortion pills in Northern Ireland remains unclear. Regulations allowing for safe and legal access to abortion come into force tomorrow (31 March), but did not include provisions for access during the current outbreak.

Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘We welcome this announcement by the Government which recognises that abortion and women’s healthcare are essential services and cannot be delayed or overlooked in emergency situations. These provisions will help to ensure that there is an effective continuation of abortion services, by reducing needless pressure on NHS resources and the need for women to make medically unnecessary journeys to and from clinics.’

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Press Manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanism.org.uk or phone 07393 344293.

Read more about this announcement.

Read more about our work on abortion.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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