In an attempt to stop the spread of Covid-19, temporary legislation was introduced at the beginning of the pandemic to allow women easier access to medical terminations in their homes with the use of two pills.

A safe method to help meet demand?

Doctors are calling for at-home medical abortions to be made permanently legal here in the UK, after research found that between April and June 2020, 23,061 abortions took place at home, making up 43 per cent of all legal abortions.

A revolutionary study of over 50,000 medical abortions, carried out by the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists, has found that the option of an at-home abortion was not only safe and effective, but also allowed easier healthcare access for women by reducing the waiting times from 10.7 days to 6.5 days.

An a-home abortion is usually a low-risk private procedure. Patients have a remote consultation after which medication to terminate a pregnancy is posted out in a ‘pills in the post’ program. So far, 97 per cent of recipients said they were ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with the experience.

Despite the argument that at-home abortions could be more dangerous, the evidence has proved otherwise with no cases of significant infection reported and no deaths linked to early medical abortion at home.

The pro-life argument that changing abortion laws makes it ‘easier’ to get a pregnancy terminated, leading to more women choosing this option is, quite frankly, invalid and outdated.

In an article written by Cosmopolitan, Professor Dame Lesley Regan, Chair of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists abortion task force, said:

‘Everyday scores of desperate pregnant women put themselves in extreme danger by undergoing illegal and unsafe abortion. Reducing access to abortion doesn’t make it any less common, but it does make it less safe’.

Let’s help not hinder women

Women in crisis will find ways to end their pregnancies, whether an at-home abortion is legalised or not. It is therefore crucial that the law is passed to allow for this to happen in a controlled and low-risk environment.

Though it may be true that difficult-to-access abortions could persuade some women to continue with an unwanted pregnancy — why would we want to put someone through that if there is a safe and legal option?

The view that doctors are only calling for this legalisation now in order to relegate some of the responsibility if something goes wrong, is flawed. This legalisation is a necessary step to drive forward the pro-choice movement and improve the otherwise less than perfect women’s healthcare system.

Making at-home abortions legal protects vulnerable women and their dignity. No one should feel threatened by pro-life protesters gathering outside termination clinics, or suffer their harassment.

The USA has previously come under judgement for its harsh stance on abortion. Mifepristone, a medication necessary to terminate an early pregnancy, was previously made available without the need for in-person attendance at a hospital or provider’s office. But in January 2021, the Supreme Court reinstated that requirement against the advice of medical organisations. The ruling has meant that among the 20,000 medications regulated by the FDA, mifepristone is the only one that requires an in-person pickup — a decision many people felt was unfair.

Despite this, the USA has seen a transformation in abortion care since the pandemic. Many of the in-person requirements needed to obtain an abortion — which are often medically unnecessary and pose an unfair burden on patients — have been removed.

Covid-19 has had at least one positive outcome then; it has seen abortion care worldwide take a progressive step.

At-home abortions have been a lifeline for many women during the pandemic, they are not just medically sound but also provide emotional sustenance during a difficult moment in a woman’s life.

Breaking down barriers means that women are being given the choice over what happens to their bodies. Legalisation of at-home abortions is long overdue. It’s time we listened to what women want and helped them make their own decisions when it comes to their reproductive choices.

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