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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 June, 2003, 23:00 GMT 00:00 UK
Home abortions call triggers row
Abortion consultation
Women can go to a GP for advice about abortion
A proposal to allow women to have early medical terminations at home has provoked controversy.

Doctors have backed the plans, which they say will benefit women who want terminate their pregnancy as early as possible, eliminating the need for a surgical abortion.

But anti-abortion campaigners say home terminations would not be safe for women.

I'm concerned about the risks to their health if the woman bleeds heavily
Nuala Scarisbrick, Life

In an early medical abortion, a woman takes two separate drugs, two days apart.

Women currently have to attend a hospital or licensed clinic on two separate occasions to take the pills.

But the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) is calling for the regulations to be changed so women can take the second drug at home.

It is calling on the Department of Health to allow a study to be carried out into the safety and acceptability of home terminations.


Early abortions take place up to the ninth week of pregnancy.

A woman first takes mifepristone, otherwise known as RU486, which causes the foetus to detach from the wall of the womb.

Two days later, she is given misoprostol, a drug which causes the foetus to be expelled. This is the stage which BPAS wants women to be allowed to go through at home rather than in a clinic.

The bleeding is usually heavier than a normal period, and a small number of women experience severe, heavy bleeding.

Women then have a check-up 10 to 14 days later.

BPAS says it would provide a helpline, staffed by nurses, which women could call if they needed advice after a home termination.

Ann Furedi, BPAS chief executive said: "Women experiencing a natural early miscarriage aren't confined to hospital and there's no need for women experiencing a drug-induced early miscarriage to be in hospital."

If it can be proven to be safe, then I don't see why not. I support anything which helps people take control of their lives
Russ, UK


Dr Kate Guthrie, a consultant gynaecologist at Hull Royal Infirmary and a spokeswoman for the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, told BBC News Online said it would be a safe and often desirable option for women.

"I think this is an excellent idea. From my perspective as a doctor I would be happy.

"One of the reasons women don't access abortion services is the need to attend a clinic twice.

"If you're trying to do something and you don't want the whole world to know, or if it's difficult to get to the hospital, they may choose instead to come for a one-off visit for a surgical abortion, for which they will need a general anaesthetic."

Dr Guthrie said women would need adequate emotional support and the ability to call for medical advice, should they need it.

But Nuala Scarisbrick of the anti-abortion charity Life, said: "I am completely opposed to this idea.

"I'm concerned about the risks to their health if the woman bleeds heavily. She should be in range of a doctor."

She added: "I think this is a cynical ploy. It's to save the costs of keeping women in so they can carry out more abortions."


A spokesman for the Department of Health said the Abortion Act stated any treatment for pregnancy termination must be carried out in an NHS hospital or an approved independent sector place.

She added: "There is provision for medical abortion to be carried out in an approved class of place but we have not yet determined what a "class of place" should be.

" No 'class of place' will be approved unless we are content that a woman's safety is not at risk."

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