The Government has today announced that it will make the provision of early medical abortion care via telemedicine permanent in England, following a vote in Parliament in March this year. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) strongly welcome this decision, which follows nearly two years of campaigning and calls for telemedicine to be made permanent across the UK.
Today’s announcement will enable women to access early medical abortions at home permanently, giving women choice between face-to-face and remote abortion care. New legislation will allow for both courses of abortion medication to be taken at home for gestations of up to nine weeks and six days.
The Government has also stated that safeguarding guidance for under-18s accessing early medical abortion services will be published soon.
Dr Asha Kasliwal, President of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), said:
We strongly welcome the Government’s decision to make home-use of both abortion pills and telemedicine for early medical abortion permanent. I am glad to see that the Government has listened to women and healthcare professionals, including FSRH members, who have called for this option to be made a permanent feature of abortion care.
“Telemedicine has enabled thousands of women to have timely access to safe, high-quality abortion care at home, with many preferring to access abortion care via telemedicine in comparison to face-to-face appointments in a clinic.
“All women should be able to receive prompt access to abortion services, which should include good pregnancy decision-making support and access to post-abortion contraception by trained healthcare professionals if required.
“As a membership body whose members work on the frontlines of abortion care, we call on DHSC to have regard for our position statement on young people, which recognises young people's rights and evolving capacity to make decisions about their lives and to consent to medical treatment.”
Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said:
“We are delighted that telemedicine for early medical abortions will continue in England and Wales. The permanent provision of telemedicine is a huge win for women, girls and people accessing abortion care.
“The telemedicine pathway has removed barriers to allow women to access an essential form of sexual and reproductive healthcare, reducing inequalities for those who live in rural areas, and rely on public transport. We are pleased that the Government has listened to the evidence that the service is a safe and effective pathway which enables women to access treatment sooner, and is preferred by women.
“This is a positive step to improve care and protect women’s rights to bodily autonomy, despite other global decisions to limit access to abortion. However, there is considerably more that needs to be done in the UK to ensure that no woman fears prosecution or is subject to criminal investigation for accessing an abortion.”
For media enquiries please contact the RCOG press office on +44 (0)7740 175342 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes to editors
- The Government’s announcement can be found here.
- FSRH position statement on young people can be read here.
- At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ministers in England, Scotland, and Wales granted temporary permission for early medical abortion treatment to be received by post following a telemedical consultation to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. This move has allowed more than 100,000 women to end pregnancies from the comfort and privacy of their own homes. Following public consultations, the governments in Wales and Scotland announced that women would be able to continue to access early medical abortion care via telemedicine. Now women and girls in England will be able to permanently to take both pills for early medical abortion up to 9 weeks and 6 days in their own homes, without the need to first attend a hospital or clinic.
- There is overwhelming evidence that allowing women to use the two pills required for an early medical abortion at home has created a more effective service. The largest ever study of UK abortion care analysed the outcomes of more than 50,000 early medical abortions that took place in England, Scotland and Wales between January and June 2020 and found that with the introduction of the telemedicine service:
- Waiting times for abortion treatment improved from 10.7 days to 6.5 days
- Women were able to receive care much earlier in their pregnancy, with 40% of abortions provided at less than six weeks.
About the RCOG
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is a medical charity that champions the provision of 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 leader in the field of sexual and reproductive healthcare, and we are the voice for professionals working in this area. As a multi-disciplinary professional membership organisation, we set clinical guidance and standards, provide training and lifelong education, and champion safe and effective sexual and reproductive healthcare across the life course for all.