Access to at-home abortion services in England is to remain in place after MPs last night voted against the Government’s policy to scrap the service.
For the past two years, women seeking an early medical abortion have been able to access “pills by post” after consultation with a doctor via telemedicine, a service brought in as part of emergency Covid-19 measures to reduce the burden on clinics.
MPs in the House of Commons voted 215-188 in favour of making the measures permanent.
Addressing the Commons, Labour MP for Tooting and Shadow Cabinet Minister for Mental Health Dr Rosena Allin-Khan said: “I am proud to support the continued provision of telemedical abortion services in England.
“Maintaining the existing provision of at-home early medical abortion following a telephone or video consultation with a clinician is crucial for women’s healthcare.
“Not only did that preserve access to a vital service during the pandemic; it enabled thousands of women to gain access to urgently needed care more quickly, more safely and more effectively.”
In an emotional address to the House, Labour MP Jess Phillips, who reminded MPs that she herself had previously had an abortion, urged those who were unsure to abstain from the vote.
Conservative MP for Boston and Skegness Matt Warman said: “If we are in favour of abortion, we should be in favour of the choice that is provided by the very safest options.
“We can see today from the evidence of the past couple of years that it is safer for women who are at their most vulnerable to have the option that we are talking about today.
“It is not compulsory; it is an option. For me, supporting that today is the definition of being pro-choice.”
This decision has ramifications for women across England, but particularly for those who are the most vulnerable.
GP and Women’s Equality Party Deputy Leader for Making Change Happen Dr Hannah Barham-Brown spoke to South West Londoner about some of the barriers faced by vulnerable women.
She said: “There are many challenges to accessing abortion services for those with disabilities – just like there are across the NHS in general.
“As a wheelchair user myself, accessing health services is difficult – and abortion services are no exception to that.
“With many of us relying on family and friends, we have no confidentiality or privacy when it comes to accessing abortion care. It’s a private thing that some people don’t want to share.
“We are delighted that Parliament has today seen sense and upheld women’s health needs and autonomy, confirming what the Women’s Equality Party, BPAS, and many health organisations have said all along – that telemedicine abortions are safe, effective, and give women who would otherwise struggle to seek timely medical support an option that works for them.
“This decision will change lives for the better. I would urge women across the country to consider how their MP voted on this and remember who respects their health and well-being when it comes to the next election.”