At-home abortion provision made permanent in England
MPs have voted by 215 votes to 188 to allow women in England to continue to access abortion services at home, overturning the Government’s recent decision to end this provision in August. Humanists UK has repeatedly called on the Government to make these measures permanent and briefed MPs in the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG) ahead of this vote – many of whom. It has expressed its delight by this outcome.
MPs voted to keep a clause added to the Government’s Health and Care Bill by the House of Lords last week, spearheaded by Conservative Peer Baroness Sugg. The clause will now form part of the final Bill. Royal assent is expected before the end of this parliamentary session in May. Jess Phillips MP, member of the APPHG, spoke in favour of the clause drawing upon her own experiences of abortion and working with victims of domestic abuse. Many more APPHG members voted in favour.
Prior to Covid, women were required to attend a clinic in person to access abortion pills. Temporary approval was put in place at the beginning of the pandemic to allow those seeking abortions up to 10 weeks’ gestation to take both pills at home, rather than having to attend a clinic. A study of more than 50,000 abortions before and after the change concluded that at-home abortion provision is ‘effective, safe, acceptable, and improves access to care’. On this basis, all major medical bodies supported keeping at-home abortions available. This included the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and the Royal College of Midwives.
The Welsh and Scottish Governments recently announced they intend to make at-home abortions permanently available in their jurisdictions.
Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said:
‘We are delighted by this vote which is not only a victory for evidence-based medical policy but puts women’s needs at the heart of sexual and reproductive health. This measure will ensure that woman can continue to access abortions in a setting of their choosing, which has been shown to make abortions safer and more accessible.’