The murky truth about why women in England can’t have abortions at home.
The law that requires women to take the necessary pills in a clinic is a moral hang-up based on anti-abortion hysteria. The medical abortion – “the abortion pill” – sounds easier than it is.
It happens in two stages: first, mifepristone, then, 24 to 48 hours later, misoprostol, which within a few hours will terminate the pregnancy. In the 90s, you went home in between, but you had to stay in the clinic for the duration of the second process, which was all a bit Handmaid’s Tale; the quasi-medical environment was very alienating, with its enforced solemnity and curtain-cubicles.
There was not enough privacy if you were distressed, and not enough chat if you were bored. So, what came afterwards – women could take the second pill in a clinic, then go home. Seemed like an improvement, except for the fact that you could miscarry on the way home. It always seemed necessary to ram home the indignities of this by reminding the world that you might be on public transport, the tacit understanding being that women deserve some peril, some inconvenience, in recognition of their dastardly act – but not on a bus.
This was the wrong argument, in my view, it ought to have been possible to say: “I don’t want to be in transit at all, you idiots, I want to take the pill at home and then remain at home”. That message got through in Scotland in October and in Wales in June, where women are now able to take the second pill at home. This week, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’, Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare and the British Society of Abortion Care Providers called on the health secretary to make the same provision for English women. There is no medical reason for the system as it stands.
Complications, while rare, can occur, but there is no advantage to them happening on public transport. The restrictions are built on the hysterical squeamishness of anti-abortionists, who shout “DIY abortion” every time measures are taken in women’s interests. It is like building blood transfusion protocols on the sensibilities of a Jehovah’s Witness: “Sure, you can have this medically necessary blood, but we can only get it past those outlier moralists if we give you a great big bruise as we put it in”.