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Women in England should be allowed to take abortion pills at home, top doctors say

The Independent logo The Independent 12/07/2018 Sarah Young

a woman sitting on a table © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Doctors are calling for women to be allowed to take both pills required for an early medical abortion at home.

Currently, women seeking an abortion are required to take two tablets, mifepristone and misoprostol, on licensed premises, 24 hours apart.

However, because side effects of the second pill can begin within 30 minutes, this means that many women experience cramps, vomiting and significant bleeding on their way home, sometimes on public transport.

As a result, the heads of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare and the British Society of Abortion Care Providers have called on the Health Secretary to lift restrictions that require a medical abortion to be carried out at a licensed clinic or hospital.

Last month the Welsh Government legalised take-home abortion pills, while the Scottish Government announced their decision to legalise the practice last October.

(representational image) © Provided by Shutterstock (representational image) “This risks the distress of having the abortion while travelling back from the clinic, a trauma that would be entirely preventable if women were allowed to take the drugs at home,” write Professor Lesley Regan, Dr Asha Kasliwal, Dr Jonathan Lord, and colleagues in an editorial in the journal BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health.

“There can be no justification not to act unless the aim is to punish women having a legal abortion.”

The doctors also argue that having to return to the abortion service for a second visit can impact those who struggle with having to take repeated time off work, childcare, transport difficulties or distance from the abortion service.

“Furthermore, it selectively disadvantages the most vulnerable - those who are deprived, live in rural areas or have dependants,” they add, quoting data on 28,000 women from one of the UK’s largest abortion providers.

The survey cited showed that 85 per cent of women opted to take both pills at the same time rather than make a return visit to the abortion service, despite knowing that this method was less effective and associated with a higher complication rate.

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The Independent has previously reported on the effect that the current restrictions have on women seeking an abortion, including 23-year-old Claudia Craig.

Describing her experience, Craig explained that during her 15-minute taxi journey home from the hospital she “turned a pale shade of green and could feel the process starting.”

“I collapsed almost as soon as I got inside my home, and then started miscarrying and vomiting on the bathroom floor,” she wrote.

“I can’t imagine what it would have been like if we had been stuck in traffic for just two minutes longer. And I was lucky that I could afford a taxi – many women cannot and have to travel home on public transport.

“It doesn't have to be this way. These journeys are a completely unnecessary ordeal.”

The doctors calling for the restrictions to be reviewed estimate that one in three women will have an abortion by the age of 45, the majority of which will be early in pregnancy when a medical abortion is most effective.

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