At-home abortions: a protection of women’s rights during the Coronavirus?

By Sophie Garnett

The Coronavirus pandemic has impacted liberties many of us take for granted here in the UK, not least of which has been access to abortion. The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) announced on Twitter on March 30th that the Government had reinstated the use of telemedical abortion – the provision of abortion pills after phone or video consultations. This is not a new method of abortion however – in England and Wales abortion pills were used in 71% of cases in 2018, the virus nevertheless disrupting this method in that under normal circumstances, women would be required to take one pill at the abortion clinic and the second pill at home.

New legislation, however, allows women to request both pills via an online or over the phone consultation and take both pills at home, provided they are under 10 weeks gestation, or 12 weeks in Scotland. Nevertheless, this method of abortion has been called into question, with critics arguing women will experience a lack of care and are left traumatised and alone to deal with the ramifications of the abortion itself. But is there really any alternative in the extenuating circumstances we find ourselves in?

Is there really an alternative in the extenuating circumstances we find ourselves in?

This telemedical treatment is ensuring women retain accessible choices regarding their bodies, an unwanted pregnancy undoubtedly adding more stress during these uncertain times. Claire Murphy from the BPAS stated that “[this] will dramatically improve women’s access to care at this time of national crisis”, ensuring they do not risk theirs and others’ health by travelling for abortions.

Women also receive the same treatment they would under normal circumstances – an in-depth conversation about their options before receiving the pills as well as a follow up appointment after the abortion has taken place.

There appears really no alternative to these at-home abortions during this time of crisis, the UK government recognising this by extending the measure for two years or until the definitive end of the pandemic. This method has further also already reduced stress on essential workers as women have been able to undergo the procedure in the safety and privacy of their own homes. Women’s rights advocates have also highlighted the benefits of these easily accessible abortions for women’s mental health.

It is very likely these telemedical abortions could be a thing of the future

Special praise surrounded the treatment of women in abusive home situations – while under normal circumstances they may be able to discreetly leave the house, in a lockdown situation this may not be possible, and they would therefore be unable to receive the care they require. The use of telemedical abortions thus seems to help more than it has the ability to harm as women retain access to accessible and effective abortion procedures despite the unprecedented circumstances we are currently living through.

In terms of whether these telemedical abortions could be a thing of the future, there is every likelihood they may remain possible even after the Coronavirus is a thing of the past, if ministers allow this change to go ahead. Being able to access abortion is, for many women, seen as a human right and this telemedical alternative may be more appealing for many – for instance in the case of domestic abuse as well as for women who may be afraid to enter an abortion clinic for fear of judgement and ridicule.

Further using this method, medical staff are not required to be present when women take the pills which in turn could relieve pressure on the NHS as more patients can be seen in the same amount of time as previously. This alternative therefore may signify a positive change in the issuing of abortions, this telemedical treatment hopefully being accessible for years to come.

Photography: Pexels via Pixabay

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