Home abortions have received a six-month extension – but will be “scrapped” by the end of summer.
In an announcement this morning, MP Maggie Throup said a six-month extension would be added to the “temporary arrangements for the provision of early medical abortion put in place during the Covid pandemic”.
Throup added that the governments “pills by post” policy would end at midnight on 29 August this year.
“After careful consideration, the Government’s view is that the provision of early medical abortion should return to pre-Covid arrangements. The wellbeing and safety of women requiring access to abortion services has been, and will continue to be, our first and foremost priority,” her statement said.
Women were sent the pills after a phone consultation rather than a visit to a clinic.
The extension will allow medical clinics to “ease back into demand” as they return to old ways of working.
However, women’s groups and medical bodies have argued that the new pills by post policy was effective, safe and preferred by women who were looking to have an abortion.
In a joint letter to Boris Johnson, the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and the British Medical Association among other groups such as Women’s Aid and End Violence Against Women said that removing the service would indicate a “deep distrust of women and an institutional disregard for their reproductive rights”.
“The current approval is used by 2,000 women a week who require an early medical abortion, and the ongoing uncertainty presents a clear and present danger to their access to, and confidence in, their abortion care,” the letter stated.
“At a time when women’s reproductive rights and choices are being rolled back elsewhere in the world, we call for leadership in asking the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to make this essential service permanent by the end of March,” it added.
Early medical abortions involve taking two pills within 48 hours of each other.
The return to the old policy means that women who are less than 10 weeks pregnant will need to visit a clinic in order to take the first pill and can take the second pill at home.
The amount of abortions performed early has increased since the beginning of the pandemic, with a 2021 report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) stating that, for every month between January to April of 2020, there were more abortions performed compared with the corresponding month of 2019.
In April 2020, the month after the pills by post policy was introduced, the ONS says there were 4,500 more abortions than April 2019.
The Independent has contacted the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and the British Medical Association for comment.