Legal update: Abortion at home is not an option in UK
- AuthorJudith Thomas-Whittingham
The High Court has rejected any change to abortion law that would enable women to take some of the pills used to induce a miscarriage, at home.
Around a third of women who terminate their pregnancies in England and Wales every year use the abortion pills.
Early medical abortions involve taking two sets of pills, within the first 9 weeks of pregnancy. These are taken 24 to 48 hours apart in order to induce a miscarriage. At present, women currently have to make two visits and are given pills each time.
In some other countries, both sets of pills are handed over at once and women are given instructions about when they should take the second set.
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) believes the same rights should be afforded in England and Wales. BPAS had challenged the law, arguing that women should choose where they complete their treatment when choosing to opt for an abortion. They believe that the second visit can be a hardship for women living some distance away, and that some are afraid they will miscarry on their way home.
Ann Furedi, the chief executive of the BPAS stated that ‘It cannot be morally right to compel a woman to physically take tablets in a clinic and to subject her to the anxiety that symptoms will start on the journey back when her doctor knows it is safe and indeed preferable for her to take these at home”.
BPAS had argued giving women both sets of pills at once would mean women could control where the abortion actually takes place and could be sure that they would not experience cramping and bleeding on the way home from their appointments.
The charity questioned whether the legal definition of "treatment" for abortion covers both the prescription and the administration of medication.
Today, the High Court ruled treatment covered the administration as well, although it said the health secretary had the power to amend the rules if advances in medicine justified it.
However, Mr Justice Supperstone dismissed the case concluding it would open the door for other less proven abortion drugs to be taken outside of approved premises and believes that the pills should still be administered by a doctor to ensure that safeguards are in place.
At Stephensons our growing clinical negligence team deals with cases of medical negligence in all fields.
If you believe the treatment you have received is also below a reasonable standard then we have a dedicated team of clinical negligence solicitors who would be happy to advise you further. Call us for free initial advice on 0844 245 6602.
By clinical negligence specialist, Stacy Albrighton