The Department of Health and Social Care has today published new statistics which show the number of abortions between January and June 2020.
To date there have been 109,836 abortions carried out in 2020, a small increase on the same period in the previous year. This demonstrates that while many essential healthcare services have had to pause activity due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, access to abortion care has been unaffected due to the innovative use of telemedicine.
The statistics show a significant reduction in average gestation, with 86% of abortions performed before 10 weeks (compared to 81% the previous year) and 50% of abortions performed before 7 weeks (compared to 40% the previous year). Abortion is considered a safe procedure and the risk of complication is further reduced the earlier it is carried out.
Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said:
“Abortion providers have worked tirelessly to redesign and deliver an essential service for women throughout the pandemic. This has been thanks to both the UK and the Welsh Governments taking bold action to bring forward regulation allowing women to access early medical abortion care in their homes up to 10 weeks’ gestation.
“The statistics, published today, show that while many healthcare services have paused during the pandemic, access to abortion has been not only maintained but improved through the innovative use of telemedicine. This has reduced unnecessary visits to clinics and increased the safety of abortion care. It has also protected both women and their families, as well as healthcare professionals, from possible coronavirus infection and transmission.
“The data demonstrates why the temporary use of telemedicine for early medical abortion must be made permanent.”
Dr Tracey Masters, abortion care lead at the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), said:
“The data shows the introduction of telemedicine for abortion care, alongside home use of both abortion medications, has been highly successful and allowed many thousands of women to avoid unnecessary visits to healthcare facilities, and it has ensured safer care with reduced waits.
“In my clinic I have directly experienced the benefits of providing telemedicine for abortion care and I sincerely hope this will be allowed to continue.
“Sadly, there is also a parallel story of unmet need. Years of cuts to public health budgets and pressures on contraceptive services, which were then compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, have made it harder and harder for women to get contraception.
“In these uncertain times, it is more vital than ever that all women should be supported to take control of their own reproductive health through easy access to the contraceptive care they all deserve.”
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Notes to editors
- The abortion statistics published by the Department of Health and Social Care can be found here.
- Healthcare is devolved across the four nations. The UK Government, Welsh Government and Scottish Government all provided temporary regulatory approval to allow for telemedicine during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which is active across England, Wales, and Scotland. The UK Government has since committed to a public consultation on whether to make this temporary approval permanent.
- The RCOG published Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection and abortion care to support healthcare professionals during the pandemic, alongside Q&As for people seeking an abortion which can be found here.
- Despite claims from anti-choice organisations, there have been no maternal deaths associated with abortion delivered via telemedicine. This has been confirmed by the Care Quality Commission.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) 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.
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.