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Welsh Government must make telemedicine permanent as it makes abortions safer and more accessible

Wales Humanists has called on the Welsh Government to make temporary Covid-19 regulations that allow women to access abortion services remotely, known as telemedicine, instead be permanent. In the year since its implementation, there is a growing body of evidence to show that abortions have been safer and more accessible under this system and that women and girls preferred telemedicine to the in-person clinic model which was previously in place. The call was made in response to a consultation proposing to permanently extend these regulations. Similar consultations have been launched by the Scottish and UK Governments.

Last March, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Welsh Government changed abortion regulations to allow women and girls to access abortion services within their own home without needing an in-person appointment, up to the tenth week of gestation. Consultations with doctors have been carried out online or by telephone and the pills required sent in the post. Similar measures were also introduced in England and Scotland.

Several studies conducted into this change have shown that telemedicine has been successful in not only ensuring continuity of care and reducing the risk of transmission of the virus, but significantly, it has also made the procedure safer and more accessible for women and girls. More abortions were performed at earlier gestations, fewer women needed surgical abortions, and there were fewer recorded complications after this change, compared to the same period the year before. Women and girls who used this system reported a preference for telemedicine over in-person consultations. 96% of women and girls reporting they were satisfied with the service and 80% reported a preference for telemedicine. None reported that they were unable to consult in private using teleconsultation.

Wales Humanists Coordinator Kathy Riddick commented:
‘The evidence that this change is good for women and girls is very compelling. Telemedicine has succeeded in its initial goal of ensuring that women can still access abortions during the pandemic when many clinics have been closed and women and girls advised not to travel. But beyond this, it has fundamentally improved the operation of abortion services as a whole. It has removed many of the barriers that caused women and girls to delay abortions, putting them at additional risk of complications. Given this evidence, the Welsh Government should seek to make this measure permanent.’

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact Wales Humanists Coordinator Kathy Riddick at kathy@humanists.uk or phone 07881 625 378.

Read our consultation response.

Read more about our work on abortion.

Wales Humanists is part of Humanists UK. Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 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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