In 2020, given the saturation of health services due to the arrival of Covid-19, access to voluntary abortion (IVG) has been facilitated by medication. In certain cases (pregnancies of less than ten weeks, which only require a telephone consultation with a doctor), women could receive the medicines that interrupt an unwanted pregnancy at home thanks to “telemedicine”, i.e. by mail, to avoid overloading the clinics to avoid . A definitively adopted measure.
In England, an abortion can be performed within 24 weeks of pregnancy, through medication or surgery, depending on the case and preference of each person. In the medical abortion scenario, two pills must be taken to terminate the pregnancy. In the case of an “early” break – ie ten weeks ago – the second drug could already be taken from home before the pandemic extended this right to both tablets. Until now, the first intake had to be the subject of an appointment in a hospital, a contract clinic or family planning.
Since 2020, people who express a desire to terminate a pregnancy can do so more independently. This measure was originally supposed to end on March 25, after this date its unlawful continuation would have been punishable by law. It was eventually extended by six months pending the final result of the parliamentary vote that finally settled it on March 31.
A solution that is already widespread, but not always legal
Technically, the practice is not new, as telemedicine is commonly practiced by some pro-choice NGOs. Such is the case of Rebecca Gomperts, a founding activist of Women on Web, who is helping women around the world by bypassing criminal courts via telemedicine. However, this practice is illegal in the UK and the NHS also medically advises against it. For reasons: the controversies surrounding the inaccuracy of the number of weeks of pregnancy, the correctness of the composition of the medicines available on the Internet, the lack of a consultation with a doctor… The same reasons have also enlivened this legislative debate. .
But with this law, telemedicine should finally become more widespread in the UK after the vote of Parliamentarians (MPs) on March 31st, while benefiting from an institutional framework. Without such a decision, Rebecca Gomperts feared a resurgence in illegal online orders for these drugs, while the country’s various contracting clinics have warned of the damaging consequences for women’s mental health if Parliament rejects them.
France has experienced a similar pandemic scenario in that it has also issued a decree promoting teleconsultation, which is now becoming permanent, albeit little applied in practice, as family planning directors and city doctors testify to a generally unchanged situation in terms of access to abortion.
Are women in the UK completely free to terminate their pregnancy?
Therefore, in the last two years, practical and ethical considerations have been eagerly discussed in order to advance the real right to abortion and to empower women in their decisions. As a reminder, the UK was already the least restrictive country in Europe when it came to deadlines.
However, even then, some women and activists testified to difficulties in accessing interventions due to an already complex organization, the difficulty in finding an appointment for an operation within the deadlines… Difficulties compounded by health constraints. Many women are still forced to carry their pregnancies to term without delay and even with partial telemedicine. Without this reversal in Parliament, the situation for women in the UK could have been more complex, even in the least restrictive country on the continent.