Women in England will be able to take an abortion pill at home by the end of the year, the government has said today.
Under the new system, women will be able to take the second of two early abortion pills (misoprostol) at home after taking the first (mifepristone) at a clinic around 24-48 hours earlier.
The new system will give women in England the same abortion options as women in Wales and Scotland, where taking the second pill at home has been possible since last year.
Under the current system in England, women are required to take both pills at a clinic. This can be unnecessarily stressful and extremely traumatising, as women need to make two trips to a clinic in quick succession, and may find they begin miscarrying before completing their journey home.
Professor Lesley Regan, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), called today's announcement "a major step forward for women’s healthcare".
"This simple and practical measure will provide women with significantly more choice and is the most compassionate care we can give them," Professor Regan added. "It will allow women to avoid distress and embarrassment of bleeding and pain during their journey home from an unnecessary second visit to a clinic or hospital. It will also improve access to safe and regulated abortion care and take pressure off NHS services."
The Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, also welcomed the changes, saying: "Abortion can be a difficult experience so it is important that women feel safe and as comfortable as possible. This decision will increase choice for women and help ensure they receive safe and dignified care."
The new system will have a significant impact on the way abortion is carried out in England, where around four in five terminations are early medical abortions taking place before the 10-week mark.
Women in England will still have the option to take the second abortion pill at home if they wish, and the government has said "safeguards will be introduced to protect women undergoing this treatment at home".
On Twitter, today's announcement has already shone a spotlight on the increasingly difficult-to-justify situation in Northern Ireland. Check out a series of reactions below.
Great news that women in England will soon be able to take abortion pills at home. Women in NI can take the abortion pill at home too...they just have to buy them illegally over the internet and risk prosecution for doing so 🤨 #NowforNI https://t.co/mu41jiBlen— Polly Barklem (@PollyBarklem) August 25, 2018
Welcome news women in England will soon be able to take one abortion pill at home. Meanwhile in NI, under near total abortion ban, women are forced online to purchase abortion pills, risking prosecution in doing so. Ongoing failure of UK Gov to act is a cruel betrayal of women. pic.twitter.com/Gd59IMqnbv— Grainne Teggart (@GTeggart) August 25, 2018
gap between how we treat women in England, Wales and Scotland and how we treat women in Northern Ireland just got bigger as govt does u turn on allowing access to abortion pill at home - don’t let NI women be left behind. Ask your MP to say it’s #nowforNI https://t.co/KceFFJ23OL— stellacreasy (@stellacreasy) August 24, 2018
Whilst abortion policy progresses in the rest of these isles, NI is left stagnating with draconian laws that put women in the North in a second class position. Hey @theresa_may we want #FreeSafeLegal #abortionrightsnai on our own doorstep! #nowforNI #TheNorthIsNext #decrimNI https://t.co/Dm0NsMQNwX— Emma Rainey #TheNorthIsNext (@afootin2places) August 25, 2018