House of Lords votes for at-home abortion provision
During last night’s late night sitting in the House of Lords, running beyond 2am, peers voted to allow women to continue to access abortion services at home. Prior to Covid, women were required to attend a clinic in person to access abortion pills. But since then, they have been able to receive the pills by post. The UK Government recently announced it intended to withdraw this service in England from August, but the Lords have now voted in favour of keeping it. Humanists UK, which has repeatedly called on the Government to make these measures permanent, said it was delighted by the news. It has urged the Commons to not overturn the Lords’ vote.
The vote happened during the Report Stage of the Government’s Health and Care Bill. The abortion amendment, tabled by Conservative Peer Baroness Sugg, was passed by 75 votes to 35. Humanists UK briefed peers in support of the amendment. Three members of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG) spoke for it, with many more voting in favour.
The Bill will have its final stage in the Lords on 23 March, after which it will return to the Commons for it to have a chance to vote on the Lords amendments. Royal Assent is expected before the end of this parliamentary session in May.
It is clear that the temporary measures introduced in 2020 have been a success. More abortions were performed at earlier gestations, fewer women needed surgical abortions, and there were fewer recorded complications after this change, compared to the same period the year before. Acceptability among women and girls who had at-home abortions was extremely high. 96% of women and girls reported they were satisfied with the service and 80% reported a preference for it rather than having to attend a clinic. None reported that they were unable to consult in private using the remote services.
The Welsh Government recently announced it intends to make at-home abortions permanently available in Wales.
Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said:
‘The House of Lords’ vote is wonderful news. The crisis of the pandemic required significant innovation in the health service, and at-home abortions were one of them. But while we are now slowly getting back to normal in many aspects of our lives, some of the temporary measures introduced undoubtedly should be made permanent. At-home abortion provision is one of these: it has made abortion safer and more accisible for women. We now call on the Commons to vote for this amendment. And we call on the Government to change its mind and allow this amendment to remain in the wording of the Bill.’