Women in England will only be able to illegally access abortion pills online because ministers end the ‘pills in the mail’ trial, MPs have been told ahead of a crucial House of Commons vote on the scheme.
Medical groups, pro-choice activists and women’s organizations say the government’s decision to end the two-year experiment will lead those seeking to end a dismissal to break the law and risk criminal charges .
The Department of Health and Social Care sparked an uproar last month when it announced it was extending the trial until the end of August but then dropping it.
The policy was introduced as a temporary measure when Covid-19 hit in the spring of 2020. It is being phased out even though more than 150,000 women have used it since then. It proved popular with women and was hailed as “the biggest positive abortion rights revolution in the UK since the Abortion Act 1967”.
Under it, women no longer have to travel to a hospital or clinic to take the first of two pills used to induce an abortion during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. Instead, they are sent the two tablets to take home. Wales have made the service permanent and Scotland are expected to do the same.
In a briefing to MPs, however, an alliance of medical and women’s groups as well as abortion providers said: ‘Banning telemedicine would force vulnerable women who cannot access in-clinic care to revert to online options not regulated, risking criminalization.” The number of women who resorted to buying pills online dropped by 88% at the start of the trial.
MPs will help decide the future of the scheme when they vote on an amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill recently passed by the House of Lords on Wednesday. He is seeking to reverse the end of the pills in the mail in September and make the scheme permanent.
Pro-choice activists’ hopes of overturning government policy were bolstered by the fact that MPs won a free vote, in keeping with parliamentary tradition on abortion, considered a matter of conscience.
“Telemedicine for early medical abortion has been a success story of the pandemic, and removing this service would be an infringement on women’s rights to access the healthcare they deserve,” said Dr. Edward Morris, chairman. from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
“With the UK Government due to publish the Women’s Health Strategy soon, it would be totally inconsistent for them to choose to stop listening to women’s views on this vital area of their healthcare.”
Some Tory MPs support the move to make the pills permanent by mail. They include former ministers Caroline Nokes, Sir Peter Bottomley and Crispin Blunt. Abandoning the regime is “a serious error in judgement” that is inconsistent with the government’s commitment to gender equality, they say.
Louise Cudden, UK advocacy and public affairs adviser at MSI Reproductive Choices, a global charity which performed 60,000 abortions in England last year, said: “From the World Health Organization to the From the United States Food and Drug Administration to the Government of Wales, there is consensus that abortion pills can be taken safely at home. However, in England, this choice is refused.
Campaigners fear that vulnerable women, including those experiencing domestic abuse or who have a controlling partner, will be denied the chance to be fired unless ministers back down.
“Before the pandemic, we spoke to women every day who faced insurmountable barriers to accessing our help in a clinic, and we were powerless to help them,” said Clare Murphy, chief executive of BPAS, another healthcare provider. ‘abortion.
“We have shown that we can help these women, and it would be an absolute travesty if this service were taken down and women were again forced to turn to organizations like Women on Web to meet their reproductive health needs.”
The Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘We recognize this is a very sensitive area. Abortion is an issue on which the government adopts a free vote. Ensuring that women can access health services safely and securely remains our priority. »