MPs vote to continue online supply of medical abortion drugs

The deputies have voted for the continued provision of medication for early abortions after a video consultation, which would eliminate the need for patients to travel to the hospital or clinic.

The vote of March 30, 2022 approved an amendment to the bill on health and carewhich makes permanent a measure that was originally introduced across the UK as a temporary response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Early-stage medical abortions require patients to take two pills – mifepristone followed by misoprostol one or two days later.

Before the pandemic, the first pill was taken in a hospital or clinic, while the second could be taken at home.

However, in March 2020, temporary measures have been taken to allow both pills to be taken at home after a video or phone consultation with a licensed doctor.

This measure was due to expire on August 29, 2022, and in February 2022 the government initially said the provision of early medical abortion should “back to pre-COVID arrangements” In England.

However, in a debate in the House of Lords on March 16, 2022Baroness Sugg has tabled an amendment to the Health and Care Bill, which would ‘maintain the current provision for early medical abortion at home after telephone or video consultation with a clinician’.

“Removing telemedical abortion provisions would almost certainly lead to an upsurge in the number of women seeking access to unregulated pills purchased online,” she said.

“There is a serious risk that some women will therefore not be able to access legal abortion care, either because providers lack the capacity or because increasing waiting times are pushing some women beyond the legal limit.

She added that some “150,000 women have had telemedical abortions since March 2020 and data on the number of women presenting to NHS services with complications has shown a decrease”.

Following the House of Commons vote in favor of the amendment by 215 votes to 188, the home provision of early abortions by telemedicine will now be enshrined in permanent legislation under the Health and care, which is currently in the final stages of debate. before receiving Royal Assent.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) had previously consulted on whether the measures should be introduced permanently between November 2020 and February 2021.

The consultation received more than 18,000 responses with almost half (9,109) of people affiliated with campaigns, including the ‘Right to Life UK’ movement, the government said.

Of the responses associated with the campaign, 70% said the measure should end immediately, while 22% wanted it to become permanent.

Among non-campaign responses, 45% said it should end and 41% wanted it to become permanent.

In comments made on Twitterthe Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG) said MPs’ support for the amendment was “welcome”.

This vital amendment will ensure that women with early medical abortion retain choice in their health care,” they said.

Edward Morris, RCOG Chairman, added: “We are delighted that MPs voted in favor of the amendment, which follows the Welsh Government’s decision to make telemedicine for early medical abortion a permanent feature of abortion care in England.

“This is a lifesaving decision that protects women’s rights to access the health care they deserve and gives them the choice to access early abortion care at home.”

Clare Murphy, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, described the vote as “the biggest progressive change to the Abortion Act 1967 since it was passed”.

“MPs who voted for listened to the evidence and they heard the voices of women,” she added. said on Twitter. “Shame on the government for trying to deny women this safe and effective choice.”

The Welsh government has already made the temporary measure permanent. In one statement issued on February 24, 2022Eluned Morgan, Welsh Minister for Health and Social Care, said she was “pleased that the arrangements are safe and deliver significant benefits to women and girls who want to access abortion services”.

In Scotland, the measure remains in place while a government commission independent assessment service takes place.

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