The BMA’s annual conference today has backed moves to make the early abortion pill mifepristone available to eligible women at home without a face-to-face consultation beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. A remote service was originally introduced as a temporary measure, in Great Britain (not Northern Ireland) in response to the pandemic but the government has recently announced a public consultation into extending it beyond this time.
The BMA supports the move to ensure women can continue to access safe and legal abortion remotely within their own homes. They would receive the same standard of care that they would be given in a face-to-face consultation and the same legal, ethical, clinical and professional standards would apply to them. These new post-pandemic services would bring them into line with existing global best practice.
Following the result of the vote, Dr John Chisholm, CBE, BMA medical ethics committee chair said:
“Abortion is clearly a complex issue, on which doctors have a broad range of views.
“We welcome the swift response of abortion services earlier this year to ensure that eligible women were able to access safe and lawful abortion during the COVID-19 pandemic. Following our debate, most doctors are clear that remote provision for early medical abortions should become a permanent option for women, as there is no clinical need for them to be delivered face-to-face in most cases.
“Early medical abortions reduce waiting times and allow abortions to take place at an earlier stage of pregnancies, which is safer for women. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) have already given their support to the proposal.
“We look forward to responding to the government consultation on this issue when it is published.”
Notes to editors
The British Medical Association (BMA) is the voice of doctors and medical students in the UK. It is an apolitical professional organisation and independent trade union, representing doctors and medical students from all branches of medicine across the UK and supporting them to deliver the highest standards of care.
The BMA’s existing views and policy can be found in the BMA’s publication The law and ethics of abortion: BMA views. Available at www.bma.org.uk/ethics
On July 6th a Health Minister in the Commons announced a public consultation on the continuation of home use of mifepristone with remote consultation support for abortion, which had been agreed as a temporary measure in response to the COVID pandemic.
This house urges the BMA to support continuation of these remote services post pandemic which are in line with best global practice and benefit women, particularly those at risk of domestic violence.