The heads of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the British Society of Abortion Care Providers are calling on the Government to follow the example of the Scottish and Welsh governments and lift restrictions on the use of misoprostol for medical abortions.
Current legislation requires abortion to take place at a licensed centre. If this condition is not met, the law allows for a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for the practitioner or the woman. The options are for women to attend a clinic for mifepristone and return 24-48 hours later to receive misoprostol or take both drugs at the same time, which reduces efficacy.
Writing in BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health, the authors say the law is not conducive to best clinical practice and they call on the Government to bring UK practice in line with guidelines from the World Health Organization and other bodies.
“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,” they say, and add that a second visit involves arranging more time off work, childcare and transport.
They urge political leaders to “ensure all women in Great Britain have access to the same international standards of best practice.” The government would need only to use its executive powers to approve women's homes as premises where medical abortion could be carried out, as both the Scottish and Welsh governments have done, they say.
"There can be no justification not to act unless the aim is to punish women having a legal abortion," write Professor Lesley Regan, Dr Asha Kasliwal, Dr Jonathan Lord and colleagues. "The time for action is now."