MPs debate if abortion ‘pills by post’ should be banned in England

LONDON (Parliament Politics Magazine) – Because officials are cancelling the “pills by post” trial, women in England will only be able to obtain abortion medication illegally online, MPs have been informed ahead of a vital Commons vote on the plan.

Medical groups, pro-choice activists, and women’s organisations claim that the government’s move to halt the two-year trial will force individuals seeking to end a termination to disobey the law and risk criminal charges.

Last month, the Department of Health and Social Care stirred outrage when it revealed that the experiment will be extended until the end of August before being scrapped.

When Covid-19 hit in spring 2020, the policy was implemented as a temporary remedy. Despite the fact that it has been used by over 150,000 women since then, it is being phased out. It has been lauded as “the single biggest positive shift in abortion rights in the United Kingdom since the 1967 Abortion Act” by women.

It eliminates the need for women to go to a hospital or clinic to take the first of two medications to induce an abortion within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. Instead, both tablets are delivered to them to take at home. Wales has made the service permanent, and Scotland appears to be on the verge of doing so as well.

Banning telemedicine would send vulnerable women who are not able to access in-clinic care back to unregulated internet options, risking criminalisation, an alliance of medical and women’s groups, and abortion providers, warned in a briefing to MPs. When the experiment began, the number of women who bought medications online dropped by 88 percent.

When MPs vote on an amendment to the health and social care bill recently passed by the House of Lords on Wednesday, they will help determine the scheme’s destiny. It aims to make the arrangement permanent by overturning the September deadline for sending medications by mail.

MPs were allowed a free vote, as required by parliamentary tradition on abortion, which is viewed as an issue of conscience, boosting pro-choice supporters’ chances of changing the government’s position.

The removal of telemedicine for early medical abortion would be an infringement on women’s rights to obtain the healthcare they deserve, said Dr. Edward Morris, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

With the UK government set to release its women’s health policy soon, it would be entirely incongruous for them to choose to ignore women’s perspectives on such an important aspect of their healthcare, he added.

Some Tory MPs are in favour of making the pill by post permanent. Caroline Nokes, Sir Peter Bottomley, and Crispin Blunt, all former ministers, are among them. They argue that scrapping the scheme is a “grave misjudgment” that contradicts the government’s commitment to gender equality.

“From the World Health Organisation to the US Food and Drug Administration, to the government of Wales, there is a consensus that abortion pills can be safely taken at home,” said Louise Cudden, UK advocacy and public affairs adviser at MSI Reproductive Choices, a global charity that provided 60,000 abortions in England last year. In England, however, that option is not available.”

Unless policymakers do a U-turn, campaigners fear that vulnerable women, such as those who have been subjected to domestic abuse or who have a controlling husband, would be denied the right to terminate their pregnancy.

They spoke to women every day before the pandemic who faced tremendous challenges to receiving the support in a clinic, and they were unable to help them, said Clare Murphy, the CEO of BPAS, another abortion provider.

She continued, they have demonstrated that they can assist these women, and it would be a complete disgrace if that service were to be discontinued, forcing them to rely on organisations like Women on Web to satisfy their reproductive healthcare needs.

“We recognise this is an extremely sensitive topic,” the Department of Health and Social Care said. Abortion is a subject where the government allows for a free vote. Our top objective is to ensure that women have safe and secure access to health care.”

Kourtney Spak

Kourtney Spak is an american journalist and political commentator. Her journalism career focuses on American domestic policy and also foreign affairs. She also writes on environment, climate change and economy.