‘A vote for gender equality’: MPs vote to permanently allow at home early medical abortions in England

But Jupp votes against and Parish absents himself.

Maya Oppenheim www.independent.co.uk

MPs have voted to make at-home early medical abortions permanent in England after a lengthy campaign by pregnancy termination services to keep the measures in place.

After the pandemic hit the UK in March 2020, ministers permitted abortion pills to be sent via post to be taken at home after a phone consultation, in a new system referred to as “telemedicine”.

While new abortion measures were due to run out on 25 March, the government recently declared a six-month extension for at-home early medical abortions after lengthy delays to ministers clarifying their position.

After the extension period, women who ordered abortion medication to take at home would have been breaking the law and could therefore have faced criminal penalties.

But MPs on Wednesday voted to make at home early medical abortions permanent – with 215 politicians voting for the measure and 188 against.

Having a medical abortion involves taking two tablets. Prior to the pandemic, getting the first tablet, mifepristone, required a visit to an abortion clinic.

The vote on telemedicine for abortion comes after Baroness Sugg, a Conservative peer, proposed a new amendment to the government’s Health and Care Bill, to ensure at-home early medical abortions become a permanent measure.

Baroness Sugg’s amendment passed in the House of Lords earlier in the month.

Louise McCudden, of MSI Reproductive Choices, a leading abortion provider, said they are “delighted” the system of telemedicine for abortion is no longer set to be revoked.

She said: “MPs have voted to keep the option of at-home abortion care. This was a vote for evidence over ideology, a vote for reproductive rights, and a vote for gender equality.

“Making this safe and popular service a permanent option will particularly benefit those who struggle to attend face-to-face appointments, including those in abusive relationships, those with caring responsibilities, and those without transport.”

Ms McCudden noted people decide to have an abortion for a range of reasons and in very different personal situations as she warned it is imperative to be able to provide a range of options.

“It is important that we can offer options that take into account personal circumstances – and that includes taking both pills at home,” she added. “Trusting people to make these choices for themselves is a vital part of how MSI delivers high quality, responsive care for anyone who needs us.”

The UK’s largest study into abortions previously found at-home early medical abortions pose no greater risk and allow women to have the procedure much earlier on in their pregnancy. Telemedicine for abortion has been permitted in Wales, France, America and New Zealand.

Some 150,000 women have had early medical abortions at home before they are 10 weeks pregnant since the provision was overhauled in the wake of the Covid crisis, MPs in the House of Commons heard.

Earlier in the week, The Independent reported women in the UK contemplated dangerous measures like scalding hot baths and hooks to terminate pregnancies before the government introduced telemedicine.

Clare Murphy, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the UK’s largest abortion provider, said: “We are absolutely delighted that MPs followed the evidence and above all listened to women when they voted for the continuation of this service.

“Early abortion at home is safe, effective and an important option for women. We look forward to being able to provide this service into the future and are incredibly grateful to all the parliamentarians who championed it.”