Page last updated at 18:42 GMT, Wednesday, 15 February 2006

Study finds home abortion 'safe'

Women take pills in order to induce the abortion

A pilot study into whether women could have abortions at home has shown early signs of success, it has been reported.

Women less than nine weeks pregnant can safely have the medical abortion outside hospital, the Department of Health backed project found.

None of the 172 women, who took tablets supervised by a nurse in a health centre, suffered serious complications, Nursing Standard reported.

But anti-abortionists say the process is too traumatic for women.

The pilot could pave the way for women to have abortions at home, in GP surgeries and in family planning clinics.

Abortion, in any circumstance, is a traumatic experience for a woman
Julia Millington, ProLife Alliance

In a medical abortion, a woman takes a tablet of the drug mifepristone under supervision before returning two days later to take four pills of misoprostol which leads to a termination within a few hours.

The pilot project in southern England represents the first time staff have offered the service outside a hospital setting.

Its location is not being revealed because of concerns pro-life protesters may harass nurses.

Shirley Butler, who manages the pilot project, told Nursing Standard: "This has been a successful pilot and it has proved that abortion is safe outside a hospital.

"We have had few problems. Some women experienced pain and they were given painkillers.


"One woman had haemorrhaging, but if she had been at home she would have called our helpline and she would have been given help."

Anne Weyman, chief executive of Family Planning Association, said: "It's very encouraging that this pilot study has been so successful.

"Medical abortion is a highly safe and effective procedure, and completing the second stage at home can provide greater comfort and privacy.

"It also reduces the number of visits needed to a clinic and is already common practice in a number of countries, including the United States."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "All abortions are currently carried out in an NHS hospital or an approved independent sector place.


"No changes to the way abortions are carried out will be approved unless we are content that there is no risk to the women's safety and we have determined what a 'class of place' should be."

The spokeswoman added that pilots of medical abortions in settings other than hospitals were on-going.

She added: "These will need to be fully evaluated."

However Julia Millington, of the ProLife Alliance, said: "Abortion, in any circumstance, is a traumatic experience for a woman.

"But they haven't considered the psychological effects. I can't imagine anything more traumatic, than for women to go through this alone at home."

LIFE, the UK's caring charity, is calling upon the Government to not consider introducing home abortions until a full and comprehensive review of the safety of RU-486 (the abortion pill) is carried out.

And the pro-life charity Life said it wanted a full and comprehensive review of the safety of the medication used before home abortions were introduced.

Should home abortions be allowed? Do you agree with this method? Your comments:

Yes, I am in favour of any medication that helps women to safely terminate an unwanted pregnancy.
Jane, Cheltenham

A hospital environment reinforces the serious nature of an abortion and is also on standby to deal with any medical or psychological implications. After all, abortion is an emotional as well as physical pain and it is impossible to say how anyone will react; the thought of people being alone during this time is a sad and potentially tragic scenario.
Jane, Southampton, UK

I have had one of these under 9 week medical abortions. The trauma is in making the decision to terminate. Once made, this is the fastest, easiest and most cost efficient way to get on with your life and mentally deal with what has happened. It doesn't hurt apart from some mild discomfort, and with the support of my partner, we were able to move on much faster. I have had a "standard" abortion when I was much younger which was 100 times more traumatic due to being in a hospital and being surrounded by other women in various states of distress waiting for the same procedure in an open waiting that is traumatic bordering on medieval. People who are anti-abortion clearly have no idea of the process involved or else they would not be increasing the trauma of women who make this decision by pushing their views and hate onto us, it's hard enough as it is. My baby would be up for adoption by now which I believe leads to a lifetime of suffering for both mother and child - how can I miss a child which never really was?
CT, Yorkshire

Going through this at home would have made my experience so much LESS clinical and intimidating - I found the whole process, naturally, hugely disturbing. Being at home would probably have eased the initial trauma considerably. HOWEVER, I do agree that it is psychologically crucial for the woman to avoid going through this on her own, to be somewhere she is comfortable BUT with people she can talk to. I was lucky, I had my partner to talk to but many women don't.
R, London

This concerns me. This isn't like taking an aspirin. What if a child accidentally takes the pill? Or an elderly person living in the home accidentally mistakes the pills for their own? Without a study on the effects this drug may have on non-pregnant people, children and males, I'm not sure that such tablets should be administered without medical supervision.
Liz, Bedford, UK

A few years ago a 16 year old friend of mine who's contraception failed had an even worse problem on her hands when the local hospital made her wait so long for an abortion that she had to have a more invasive procedure done than simply taking some tablets. I think in her case this proposal would have made things so much less traumatic for her and I hope that people will be able to put aside their own personal feelings on the matter in general to allow others to deal with their own personal matters in a much quicker and simpler way.
Jennifer, Netherlands, ex-UK

People are always complaining that there is a lack of hospital beds so home abortions may free up some for other people. So I would say yes, they should be allowed if there is a bed shortage in hospitals.
Helen, UK

Sounds reasonable, as long as a midwife or other suitably qualified medical orderly is in attendance.
Graham Rodhouse, Helmond, The Netherlands

This is a double-edged sword. The benefits of being at home are: familiar surroundings, privacy, comfort and the choice of being alone or having friends and family around. However, without an experienced doctor or nurse should there be any complications it could turn into a terrifying experience. This is equally true of clinical conditions but the benefits are the experience of the people providing the service who are on hand to deal with any problems. It could open up a can of worms with women possibly trying for home abortions after the 9-week deadline. I agree with abortion as it is a woman's right to choose what happens to her body. I do not agree with the current time limit though; it's too high and should be lowered. A friend of mine went through two abortions as to go ahead with either pregnancy would have resulted in a very unhappy life for the child. My friend however, refused counselling and has not got over it properly. This is the other problem with home abortions - the psychological after effects must be dealt with properly in order to enable the woman to cope with her decision and get on with her life.
Grace McGowan, London, England

I feel that it is the individuals right to terminate their pregnancy. I feel that it is their choice whether this is done at home or in hospital. It would be advantageous to teenagers who would find this a confidential method. As long as all the individuals have the appropriate counselling before and after taking the medication.
s booth, Mansfield Woodhouse Notts

Yes this method of abortion should be allowed. Women don't make this decision easily, they are the ones who have to live with the consequences of an abortion and being able to be comfortable in a home environment can only help. Partners or family can be with the woman if she chooses. Some hospital environments can be distressing to a woman who has to have an abortion for whichever reason, choice or medical. Counselling and support is nearly always available to help women come to terms with an abortion and the after effects. It seems that sometimes people (ProLife Alliance) don't take into account the psychological effects of going ahead with a pregnancy, whether unplanned or planned.
Judith, Newcastle upon Tyne

If we are going to have home abortions, that is the taking of human life in the 'comfort' of ones home then we might as well have home euthanasia to add to the disgusting catalogue of "events" that are now taking place or will take place in the near future in our glorious country the very EU'd UK!
R Steward, Hampshire, England

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