Following months of campaigning from abortion rights activists, government officials have announced that women in England will be allowed to complete the medical abortion process at home by the end of 2018. Medical abortions – which are used to terminate pregnancies in the first ten weeks—account for 80 percent of all abortions in England.
During medical abortions, women take two drugs between 24 and 48 hours apart.
The first, mifespristone, causes uterine contractions and blocks the action of progesterone. The second, misoprostol, causes further uterine contractions and induces a miscarriage. Under the terms of the current law, women in England must take both of these drugs at a clinic. The problem, according to women who have undergone this procedure, is that misoprostol can cause a miscarriage to begin before they’re able to get home from the clinic.
“On the return journey from the second pill the effects I’d been told about kicked in quickly and more violently than I expected,” said one woman whose name was not disclosed in an interview with the BBC. “I began to miscarry on the way home. I just wanted to be in bed, not in a car or on a motorway, as I started to feel ill really quickly.”
Stories like this are fairly common among women who have undergone medical abortions in England, which is why the government will soon allow women to take misoprostol in the comfort of their own homes.
Earlier this year, Scotland and Wales updated their own laws to allow women to take misoprostol at home as well. Professor Lesley Regan, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG), hailed the change as a “major step forward for women’s healthcare.”
“This simple and practical measure will provide women with significantly more choice and is the most compassionate care we can give them,” said Regan in a statement. “It will allow women to avoid distress and embarrassment of bleeding and pain during their journey home from an unnecessary second visit to a clinic or hospital. It will also improve access to safe and regulated abortion care and take pressure off NHS services.”
According to the government announcement, England will introduce safeguards to protect women undergoing medical abortions at home, and work with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to implement the new changes quickly and effectively.
Here in the United States, women are already legally permitted to take misoprostol at home during medical abortions. At South Avenue Women’s Services, we can also provide patients with Tylenol #3 or Vicodin to help manage any pain and cramping caused by misoprostol. A few days after taking misoprostol, patients must return to our clinic for an ultrasound exam to make sure the abortion process is complete. During this follow-up exam, we can discuss birth control options as well. You can learn more about the medical abortion process here.