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BPAS urges governments to make telemedical abortion care a permanent option for women as new research from Scotland reaffirms the safety and efficacy of the service.

  • A study published today in the BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health has found that telemedicine abortion is safe, effective, and preferable for many women.
  • Telemedical abortion care was introduced in Scotland, England, and Wales in March 2020 as a temporary measure to control the spread of COVID-19.
  • In Scotland, women under 12 weeks of pregnancy can access a telemedical consultation from the privacy of their own home, and, if clinically suitable, have abortion medication sent by post without the requirement that they attend a clinic.
  • Researchers analysed interviews and clinical notes from over 600 women in Scotland who underwent an early medical abortion at home following a telemedical consultation between 1st April and 9th July 2020.
  • 98% of women who ended their pregnancy by telemedicine had a complete abortion and required no further treatment. An overwhelming majority of women (95%) reported that they felt the service was acceptable and that they felt prepared to administer their treatment at home.
  • Following a public consultation which closed in January, the Scottish government is now considering if telemedicine should be provided beyond the pandemic. Consultations remain open in England and Wales until 26th and 23rd February, respectively.
  • The charity the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, BPAS, said that the research “provides yet more evidence that telemedical abortion care is safe and effective” and should be made a permanent option for all women who need it.

The reproductive healthcare charity the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, BPAS, has welcomed new research which reaffirms the safety and efficacy of telemedical abortion services. Telemedical abortion care was introduced in Scotland, England, and Wales in March 2020 as a temporary measure at the beginning of the pandemic. This allows women under 12 weeks of pregnancy in Scotland to undergo a telemedical consultation from privacy of their own home, and, if clinically suitable, have abortion medication sent by post without the requirement that they attend an in-clinic appointment. The Scottish government are currently considering making telemedical care a permanent option for women.

The peer-reviewed paper, Telemedicine medical abortion at home under 12 weeks’ gestation: a prospective observational cohort study during the COVID-19 pandemic was published in the BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health journal this week. Researchers evaluated the experience of 663 women living in Scotland who accessed abortion care via telemedicine and found that “women reported high levels of preparedness to use the medications in their own homes, acceptability of care was high, and the majority of women expressed a preference for choosing this model of care again in the future.”

Key results from the research include:

  • 98% of women had a complete abortion and required no further treatment.
  • 95% women rated their care as very or somewhat acceptable.
  • 95% of women felt they were prepared for their treatment following the telemedicine consultation.
  • 95% of women rated the abortion experience as ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ acceptable and more than two-thirds (71%) of women stated that they would opt for a telephone consultation again if they required an abortion in the future.

The authors conclude that the study “provides support for continuation of this model of care in this setting beyond the current pandemic.”

Commenting on the research, Clare Murphy, Chief Executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, BPAS, said:

“We welcome this research which provides yet more evidence that telemedical care is safe and effective, and that is should remain an option for women seeking an early medical abortion beyond the pandemic.

“We must never return to forcing women into attending unnecessary in-clinic appointments to undergo needless clinical procedures when they can safely access this care from the comfort and privacy of their own homes. Even outside of the pandemic, women struggle to access clinic appointments due to work, caring responsibilities, disability, and geography. Prior to the introduction of telemedicine, many women in rural or island communities had to travel significant distances to attend in person appointments, involving overnight stays and requiring additional costs for travel. It would be cruel to compel a return to this.

“Telemedicine represents a significant step towards creating an abortion service that meets the needs of all women, regardless of where they live or their ability to travel. We urge Ministers to do the right thing for women in Scotland and across Great Britain by securing telemedical abortion care for the future.”

ENDS

For further information please contact BPAS on press@bpas.org or 07881 265276.

About BPAS

BPAS is a charity which sees almost 100,000 women a year for reproductive healthcare services including pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management and contraception at clinics across Great Britain. It supports and advocates for reproductive choice. BPAS also runs the Centre for Reproductive Research and Communication, which seeks to develop and deliver a research agenda that furthers women’s access to evidence-based reproductive healthcare, driven by an understanding of women’s perspectives and needs. You can find out more here: https://www.bpas.org/get-involved/centre-for-reproductive-research-communication/

BPAS will be launching a not-for-profit fertility service in 2021 to provide ethical, evidence-based, person-centred care that supports patients. We intend to only charge what it costs to provide a safe, high-quality, and accessible service to patients who may be unable to access NHS-funded care.