Today the Government has announced home use of misoprostol, the second drug used to effect an early medical abortion, will be legalised for women in England.
By the end of this year, homes in England will officially be approved by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care as places where early medical abortion can happen. This will bring England in line with Scotland and Wales.
With clinical and legal advice now clear that the home-use of abortion pills is safe and legal, the Government has taken the important step of allowing women to choose whether to administer the second of two abortion pills at home – rather than at a clinic.
This will not change the way that women are assessed and treated for an abortion and safeguards will be introduced to protect women undergoing this treatment at home.
The Department of Health and Social Care will work closely with partners across the health system to implement this change quickly and safely. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists will develop clinical guidance that all professionals should follow when providing this treatment option to women.
Professor Lesley Regan, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), said:
"Today's announcement that use of misoprostol at home will be allowed in England is hugely welcomed and a major step forward for women's healthcare.
"This simple and practical measure will provide women with significantly more choice and is the most compassionate care we can give them.
"It will allow women to avoid distress and embarrassment of bleeding and pain during their journey home from an unnecessary second visit to a clinic or hospital. It will also improve access to safe and regulated abortion care and take pressure off NHS services."
Dr Asha Kasliwal, President of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), said:
“Today’s announcement by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care is a significant step forward in securing women’s access to safe and effective Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, allowing England to catch up with the recent developments we have seen across some other parts of the United Kingdom.
“The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare believes that women should be able to access safe and legal abortion wherever they live in the UK. This includes women having the choice to administer abortion medication at home or a place of women’s choosing.
“FSRH has pointed out on many occasions that allowing women to take misoprostol at home is an issue of patient safety. A recent study reporting on the experience of over 28,000 women having early medical abortion over a year highlighted that 85% of these women chose not to return to a clinic for the second dose of abortion medication, choosing instead to take both doses at the same time. The medical risks of this are well proven, with some women experiencing unnecessary additional risk of complications as a result.
“I hope the Secretary of State will continue along this positive trajectory, enabling women’s right to high quality Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare.”
Note to Editors
For media enquiries, please phone the RCOG press office on 020 7045 6773 or 07986 183 167, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
About the RCOG
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is a medical charity that champions the provision of high quality women’s healthcare in the UK and beyond. It is dedicated to encouraging the study and advancing the science and practice of obstetrics and gynaecology. It does this through postgraduate medical education and training and the publication of clinical guidelines and reports on aspects of the specialty and service provision. For more information, visit: www.rcog.org.uk
About the RCOG taskforce
The RCOG has identified the urgent need to ensure abortion services are safe, readily available and sustainable. Changes to the way abortion care is commissioned and delivered is having an impact on doctors’ access to training and women’s access to services. In order to address these issues, the RCOG has established an Abortion Task Force, led by President Professor Lesley Regan. The College has agreed to work collaboratively with the main independent-sector providers to seek system-wide solutions to ensure that women have access to safe, sustainable, high-quality care. The RCOG supports decriminalisation of abortion in the UK.
About the FSRH
The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) is the largest UK professional membership organisation working at the heart of sexual and reproductive health (SRH), supporting healthcare professionals to deliver high quality care. It works with its 15,000 members, to shape sexual reproductive health for all. It produces evidence-based clinical guidance, standards, training, qualifications and research into SRH. It also delivers conferences and publishes the journal BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health in partnership with the BMJ. For more information please visit: www.fsrh.org
Lohr PA, Starling JE, Scott JG, et al. Simultaneous compared with interval medical abortion regimens where home use is restricted. Obstet Gynecol 2018;131:635–41.