Coronavirus: Government relaxes abortion rules during COVID-19 crisis

Women unable to access a clinic will be able to use abortion pills at home as the government temporarily relaxes rules during the coronavirus crisis.

The Department for Health and Social Care will soon be issuing updated guidance in a move welcomed by medical bodies and healthcare charities.

Under the updated guidance, women who need a medical abortion up to ten weeks will be able to hold a telephone or online consultation with a doctor.

They will then be able to use abortion pills at home.

The change in abortion rules is being time limited for two years or until the coronavirus crisis is over.

The move had initially been announced last week, but government officials later said it was “published in error”.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock subsequently told MPs there were “no proposals to change any abortion rules” as part of the COVID-19 response.

Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) welcomed the government’s now changed stance on Monday.

She said: “We welcome the confirmation we have received today that the government will re-instate telemedicine for early medical abortion in England.

“This will prevent tens of thousands of women from having to travel needlessly to clinics and will also enable many of our healthcare professionals to provide teleconsultations and prescriptions from the safety of their own homes.”

But Ms Furedi added her charity remains “extremely concerned” about the ability of women in other parts of the UK to access abortion care during the pandemic.

“In Northern Ireland, abortion care is now lawful, but services have not yet been established and telemedical abortion care is not permitted under the regulations produced by the government last week,” she added.

“As a result, women are being forced to travel hundreds of miles via ferry and public transport to clinics in England at a time when they are also being told to stay at home to save lives.

“We urge policymakers to now implement similar measures to permit telemedical abortion services in Northern Ireland as a matter of urgency.”

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