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Comment on DHSC Abortion Statistics: Telemedical abortion service results in significant drop in gestation at which women can access care – protecting their health during the pandemic

  • Data released today from the Department of Health show that the introduction of telemedical abortion services has enabled women to undergo abortion at the earliest gestations.
  • Almost 50% of abortions were performed before 7 weeks gestation from January to June 2020, compared to almost 40% for the same period in 2019. 
  • Between January to June 2020, 86% of abortions were performed at under 10 weeks. This compares with 81% in January to June 2019, an increase of 5 percentage points.
  • By enabling women to end their pregnancies earlier through medication, the proportion of women undergoing a surgical procedure has also declined. Between January to June 2019, surgical abortions accounted for 28% of all terminations performed. This compares with 18% during the same period in 2020. 
  • The British Pregnancy Advisory Service, BPAS, data also shows that since the introduction of telemedicine, waiting times for women seeking abortion care have more than halved.
  • BPAS has said that Britain’s telemedical abortion service is now “the standard of high quality, woman-centred care in countries around the world” and that the data released today supports the continuation of this service as in the best interests of women. 

 

Abortion statistics released today by the Department of Health & Social Care show that the introduction of telemedical abortion care has enabled women to access abortion care at earlier gestations. While many healthcare services have experienced suspension or increased waiting times, the introduction of telemedical abortion care has significantly reduced waiting times – meaning women have been able to access the help they need sooner in their pregnancy.

In March, the Secretary of State for Health approved temporary measures in England to enable women to have their consultation performed via telemedicine and, for women who are clinically suitable and under 10 weeks of pregnancy, receive treatment in the post, during the pandemic. In July, the government announced that there will be a public consultation on whether the new regulations enabling telemedicine for abortion care should be retained once Covid-19 arrangements expire.   

Data from BPAS, the leading abortion provider in the UK, shows that waiting times for appointments have more than halved, with an average wait for an appointment of just 4 days. The average gestation at which women have their consultation has also fallen by over a week, from 60 days in the first half of 2019, compared with 52 days during the same period in 2020. Abortion is a very safe procedure and considerably safer than carrying a pregnancy to term, but the earlier it can be performed the better for women’s physical and mental health.

The statistics show that there was an increase in the number of women undergoing an abortion in April from the same month in 2019, and then a decrease in May and June this year.  With the introduction of telemedical services in April, waiting times reduced significantly and women who may have previously had to wait a number of weeks to have their procedure were able to access treatment in April. However the data released today will not provide a full picture of the impact of the pandemic on women’s reproductive choices, and it is possible that in months to come we will see an increase in the number of women accessing abortion care due to the significant uncertainty caused by COVID-19 and the impact that has on women’s decision making when faced with an unplanned pregnancy, as well as difficulties accessing contraception during this time.

Clare Murphy, Deputy Chief Executive at BPAS said:

“These figures illustrate that access to abortion care has been one of the few healthcare success stories of this pandemic, with women able to access the help and support they need earlier in pregnancy. Abortion is considerably safer than carrying a pregnancy to term, but the earlier it can be performed once a woman is certain of her decision, the better for both her physical and mental health. Removing the need to travel to clinics, sometimes considerable distances from where a woman lives, means women no longer have to juggle childcare and working commitments to access the appointment they need. It’s absolutely clear this service protects women’s health and their reproductive choices, and must be retained once we emerge from this terrible pandemic.”

ENDS

The full statistics are online here.

For more information, please email press@bpas.org or call 07788 725 185

 

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 the UK. We support and advocate for reproductive choice.

BPAS intends to launch our own not-for-profit fertility service in Spring 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.