Return to the BPAS home page

Press Releases

Press Office

BPAS welcomes Department of Health report on Early Medical Abortion

Published 06 May 2008

Ann Furedi, Chief Executive of the charity British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) which provides almost 13,000 early medical abortions each year, and which provided a comparator site for the research, welcomed the Department of Health commissioned report confirming that the early medical abortion method is safe, effective and acceptable. She said: 

‘It’s high time that the Department considered new and more accessible options for providing women with earlier abortion care. Abortion is an intensely personal experience to each woman and they repeatedly tell us that it’s very important to them to have as much treatment choice as possible. Under present regulations, this is not always permitted. The existing rules can actually create barriers to some women accessing treatment as early as possible.  

‘Early medical abortion is increasingly favoured by women as a non-invasive, non-surgical option, and there is no clinical reason why the number of visits a woman makes to access the medication cannot be reduced, or this method provided in local or community settings suited to this specialist care.  

‘Abortion legislation will be reviewed during Parliamentary debate on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. We hope that Parliamentarians will take the opportunity to permit early abortion provision to be shaped by best practice, not bad politics.’ 


Notes for Editors  

Early medical abortion is only available for use in a pregnancy of under 63 days (9 weeks) in the UK. In the USA and other European countries, this method is delivered in a different way than is legally possible in the UK, whereby women attend a clinic to receive the first dose of medication involved in the treatment, which renders the fetus non-viable.

During the same visit, they are given the second part of the medication to self-administer at home, according to careful and detailed instructions, causing the uterus to contract and expel the products of conception as in an early natural miscarriage. They then complete their abortion in the comfort and privacy of their own home. By contrast in Britain, the official interpretation of the abortion law means that women must return again to their clinic, making a separate visit to receive the second part of the medication that will complete their treatment.

In the NHS units, the study found, women are even required to stay on a hospital ward for 4-6 hours in the hope that their abortion will be completed in that time. BPAS has adopted a protocol that allows women, after receiving the second part of the medication at the clinic, to return home to complete their abortion, thus mirroring as closely as possible the international experience.

Around 55,000 women, following this BPAS protocol have had this treatment in the last eight years.  

For more information on this report and the ensuing consultation process, or to download a copy of the report please see the Department of Health’s statement :

Follow this link to download the report in full:  

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, (RCOG) states that ‘At least one-third of British women will have had an abortion by the time they reach the age of 45’ (see p1, ‘Care of women requesting induced abortion, Evidence-based Guideline Number 7, Sept 2004).

For most women, having an abortion poses fewer medical risks than going through pregnancy and birth. See the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ (RCOG) information on this -

Please contact the BPAS press office on 07788 725 185 to request more information or an interview with Ann Furedi.


Return to previous page