Abortion pills are safe and simple

So why won’t the government let women in England take them at home?

Ann Furedi

Topics Politics

The government may claim its health service has a commitment to evidence-based treatment, but it is shamefully blind to the evidence when it comes to abortion.

Britain was among the very first countries to allow early medical abortion in hospitals and clinics when it became available more than two decades ago. It now trails behind almost every other country in allowing women to use abortion pills in a sensible, safe and evidence-based way.

Canada approved the medications mifepristone ‎and misoprostol just a year ago, and already they’re treated like any other prescribed drugs. They are collected from a pharmacy and used at home. In England, however, women have to take the drugs in a clinic, before having to rush home before they take effect.

This flies in the face of evidence and common sense. The drugs cause an early miscarriage, and no one wants to experience the symptoms of cramping and bleeding on the bus. But this is precisely what many patients in England are forced to endure under the current rules.

Early medical abortion is safe and simple. Scotland and Wales allow women to use these drugs at home (just as the rest of the world does). But English ministers say they want to see more evidence.

Meanwhile, women are taking matters into their own hands and buying these drugs on the internet.

Successive ministers have told the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, where I am chief executive, that they are worried about being seen to be making abortion easier. They are worried about how the Daily Mail will react.

They should be worried about putting politics before medical practice and making a simple treatment more difficult.

It would require no change in the law to allow women to take these tablets at home. Ministers should stop being irrational and obstructive, recognise that abortion care is legitimate and right, and just sign the orders that would allow women in England to take these pills at home.

Women can be trusted.

Ann Furedi is the author of The Moral Case for Abortion and chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service.

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