MPs vote to make early home abortion services permanent


Noa Hoffman

4 minute read

MPs voted against a government policy to end telemedicine abortion services introduced as a temporary measure during the pandemic.

On Wednesday afternoon, MPs in the Commons voted 215 to 188 in favor of keeping home abortion services for women.

As is convention on moral issues, Labor and Conservative MPs won a free vote on the issue.

“I’m glad the Commons voted to continue allowing women access to the telemedicine abortion service, which provides fast and safe access for women,” Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting tweeted in response to the vote.

“It was a free vote and I voted for,” he added.

Fellow Tory Baroness Sugg, who tabled an amendment to the Health and Care Bill allowing MPs to vote against the government’s decision to scrap telemedicine abortions, said: “Ravi is putting it mildly.

“Thank you to all MPs who voted to help women access their choice of healthcare in a safe and effective way.

“Thank you to all the women, medical experts, women’s groups and activists who advocated and made this possible.”

Speaking during the Commons debate on keeping abortion via telemedicine, Shadow Minister for Domestic Violence and Safeguarding Jess Phillips described her abortion experience and explained that the hardest part of the process was “waiting”.

“I myself had an abortion and I don’t feel devastated by that fact,” Phillips said.

“The worst abortion process is waiting,” added the Shadow Minister.

“I had made up my mind about what I was going to do with my body. I made it the second I saw I was pregnant on a pregnancy test.”

In March 2020, then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock temporarily authorized the use of telemedicine services to access early medical abortion at home using “pills in the mail”.

After an electronic or telephone consultation with a doctor, women wishing to terminate a pregnancy up to 10 weeks can receive the two doses of abortion pills to take at home, without having to go to a hospital or clinic first. Prior to its introduction, individuals were legally required to take the first course of two cycles of abortion medication in a hospital or clinic.

Last month the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced that abortion services in England would return to pre-pandemic arrangements from the end of August.

The move sparked outrage from some MPs in the House of Commons, who argued the policy was a step backwards for women’s reproductive rights.

Senior Tory MPs Caroline Nokes, Sir Peter Bottomley and Crispin Blunt described the end of the pills in the mail as “misjudged”, while fellow Tory Baroness Sugg told PoliticsHome it was “unjustifiable”.

Since its introduction, more than 40,000 women across Britain have had safe early medical abortions following telemedical consultations.

A poll carried out for Savanta Com-Res in December 2021 showed that 65% of women across the UK want telemedicine to remain a permanent option beyond the pandemic.

Responding to MPs’ decision to vote in favor of telemedicine abortion, Louise McCudden, UK advocacy and public affairs for MSI Reproductive Choices, said: “We are delighted that MPs have voted to retain the option of care for home abortion.

“It was a vote for evidence rather than ideology, a vote for reproductive rights and a vote for gender equality.

Catherine Robinson, spokeswoman for anti-abortion campaign group Right To Life, said MPs who voted in favor of telemedicine abortion “voted to remove life-saving safeguards, including an in-person appointment with a healthcare professional.

“By removing a routine in-person visit that allows doctors to certify gestation and recognize potential coercion or abuse, ‘at-home’ abortion has posed serious risks to women and girls in situations of violence,” she added.

Echoing Robinson, anti-abortion organization The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children called the decision “shameful”.

“It was bad enough that this policy was introduced as a temporary measure during a public health emergency, but for MPs to vote for it, without even that poor excuse, shows how little they care about health and well-being of women,” the group said.

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