Brook is deeply disappointed by the Government announcement that telemedicine for early abortion care in England will not be made permanent. From August this year it is intended that service providers will revert to face-to-face consultations only.
The provision of telemedicine abortion in England was approved in March 2020, at the start of the pandemic, to prevent the need for anyone accessing early medical abortion to travel to a clinic.
The abortion process remains the same whether accessed in person or via telemedicine. Service providers deliver the same care and require the same information from patients, but the consultations are conducted remotely by telephone or video call and the pills are sent by post. The two pills are taken 24-48 hours apart and the abortion procedure takes place at home.
It is estimated that between April 2020 and February 2022, more than 125,000 women made the choice to access fully telemedical rather than face-to-face abortion services. Those who accessed telemedicine abortion report having high quality conversations during their telephone consultations, and relief not to have to spend time on public transport or in waiting rooms.
Substantial data collected during this time demonstrates that telemedical abortions are safe, effective, accessible, with both waiting times and gestational age at the time of the abortion significantly reduced. The decision not to continue provision limits people’s choice and prevents them from accessing vital healthcare in ways that suit them.
Revoking this access will disproportionately affect those who are already at risk of poorer health outcomes. This includes people living in rural areas, those who are in coercive relationships and people who are unable to travel due to finances, illness or disability.
Brook stands with sector colleagues, professional bodies, and cross-party MPs, united in our continued fight to make telemedicine abortion permanent. It is one of the few successes of the pandemic and there should be no question of retaining a safe, effective service that has demonstrable benefits to hundreds of thousands of people.