Ann Furedi, Chief Executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said:
“We are delighted by this decision, which represents an outbreak of common sense. It will dramatically improve the experience of the more than 100,000 women in England who undergo Early Medical Abortion every year. Bpas has long campaigned for this simple, evidence-based measure, which is standard practice across the world and endorsed by the World Health Organisation. Enabling women to use this medication at home rather than being forced to take it in a clinic means women will no longer risk pain and bleeding as they travel home after taking it, and means they can use it at the time that is right for them, when they are safe and comfortable in the privacy of their own homes.
“The safety and efficacy of home use of misoprostol for early abortion has been well established for many years. Our only disappointment is that it has taken so long for a Health Secretary for England to authorise this, and that so many women have suffered needlessly in the interim. We applaud Matt Hancock for finally taking this important step, and look forward to offering this service to the women who need it as soon as possible.”
For media enquiries, or to speak to a woman who has been affected, please contact bpas on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07788 725 185.
Notes for Editors
Under the 1967 Abortion Act, all treatment for the termination of pregnancy must take place in NHS hospitals or clinics specifically licensed by the Secretary of State for Health. At the time, this was designed to ensure the safety of surgical treatments, but the law has also been interpreted as requiring that the medication required for medical abortion be taken within a clinic, rather than allowing women to take the pills home with them, as they can do if they are being treated for incomplete miscarriage. In 2011, bpas brought a case to the High Court aiming to establish that home administration, once a woman meets the terms of the 1967 Abortion Act, would be permissible under the law. This was contested by the Department of Health at the time, and bpas lost the case. However the judge ruled that Section 1(3A) of the Abortion Act as amended in 1990 enables the Secretary of State to react to 'changes in medical science' as it gives him 'the power to approve a wider range of place, including potentially the home, and the conditions on which such approval may be given relating to the particular medicine and the manner of its administration or use.' It is these powers which the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has exercised to sanction home use in England. Ministers in Wales and Scotland have already made use of these powers in the last 12 months to give women the choice of home use.
bpas is a charity which sees more than 70,000 women a year and provides reproductive healthcare services including pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management and contraception, at clinics across the UK. It supports and advocates for reproductive choice. More information can be found at bpas.org.