After a debate at the British Medical Association's (BMA) annual representative meeting, a panel of doctors decided that home use of mifepristone should continue to be permitted for early medical abortions. A majority of doctors believed that it was "safe and effective" but some had large concerns about the procedure. The BMA has come under fire for its support of the policy extension. This change allows doctors to prescribe home abortions up to the 10th week of pregnancy.
During the discussion, retired obstetrics consultant Professor Wendy Savage claimed that the prescription pills had "benefited women" and that no serious complications had been reported."It is essential that the BMA supports the permanence of this change by all means possible", Professor Savage said.
John Chisholm, the BMA medical ethics committee chair, also supported the motion. He said, 'The evidence is very much there that this has been a positive and successful change.' Chisholm defended the decision to extend at-home abortions: 'Robust safeguarding procedures are in place to identify those women and girls who have a safeguarding risk; all under-18s and all vulnerable adults have a safeguarding risk assessment. Marie Stopes UK has seen a 77 percent increase in the number of safeguarding cases identified, which shows that vulnerable women and girls are being protected.'
Yorkshire clinical genetics trainee Melody Redman objected, citing cases of women receiving abortion pills after 10 weeks. She argued that "remote services mean a removal of current safeguards.""Face-to-face consultations allow appropriate clinical assessment and risk management. Remote services mean no ultrasound scanning, so no checking for ectopics, no qualification of gestation beyond a woman's last menstrual period."
Michael J Robinson of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children said it was "shocking" that the BMA would come out in support of such a "dangerous" policy.
London sessional GP Naomi Beer also said at the debate that at-home abortions "will not be permanent, and such a change in practice should not become permanent without a robust evidence review and appropriate parliamentary scrutiny."
However, a majority of doctors supported the motion to "support the continuation of these remote services post-pandemic, which are in line with best global practice and benefit women."