LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Women in England should be able to take abortion pills at home to avoid the “distressing experience” of suffering pain and heavy bleeding while returning from hospitals and clinics, medical experts said on Monday.
Studies suggest that it is safe for women to take abortion drugs at home instead of in a clinic and allowing them to do so does not increase abortion rates, according to an editorial in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) Sexual & Reproductive Health.
“Women’s preference for home administration is easy to grasp: it allows for greater privacy, better control over timing, and better emotional support from family, while also reducing the burden on healthcare facilities,” it said.
After seeking medical advice, women will normally take the drug mifepristone followed by misoprostol a day or two later.
Since the second dose can cause an abortion within an hour, which leads to heavy bleeding, women in Scotland have the option of taking the drug at home.
That will soon be extended to Wales, but in England, women must take both pills at a hospital or abortion clinic, which means they can find themselves bleeding and in severe pain on their way home, the editorial said.
“Misoprostol can cause an abortion to start within an hour, resulting in pain and heavy bleeding on the journey home from hospital – an unacceptably distressing experience,” it said.
The editorial was co-authored by experts from Britain’s National Health Service, the British Society of Abortion Care Providers and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
They said poorer women in England ran the risk of missing their second visit to the hospital or abortion clinic as they may not be able to afford time off work.
Marie Stopes UK, which runs abortion clinics, said England should follow in the footsteps of Wales, Scotland, the United States and Norway and let women take the pill at home.
“There’s no reason why women should be unable to take the second abortion pill at home,” said Caroline Gazet, Clinical Director at Marie Stopes UK, in emailed comments to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“Under the current rules, women are expected to race home from the clinic before the pills take effect, compromising their privacy and dignity,” she said.
Last week a British court upheld a ban on protests outside a London abortion clinic run by Marie Stopes UK.
Authorities in west London introduced the ban, the first of its kind in Britain, in April after clashes between pro- and anti-abortion campaigners that they said intimidated patients.
Two-fifths of women still live in countries where abortion is banned or highly restricted, according to a March report by the Guttmacher Institute, the most comprehensive study on global abortion trends in a decade.
However the increased use of the abortion-inducing drug misoprostol has improved safety, it added.
Projections suggest deaths from unsafe abortions would decline by two-thirds in developing regions if women used misoprostol instead of resorting to riskier procedures.
(This version of the story clarifies name of journal in paragraph 2)
Reporting by Lin Taylor @linnytayls, Editing by Claire Cozens; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian issues, conflicts, land and property rights, modern slavery and human trafficking, gender equality, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories