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Health Minister Tells Tory MPs Government Does Not Support At Home Abortion Services

3 min read

Health Minister Maggie Throup has written to MPs confirming the government does not support attempts to reverse the Department for Health and Social Care’s policy to end at-home early abortion services in England.

A vote on whether to maintain telemedicine access to early medical abortion pills that can taken at home is due to take place in the Commons this afternoon, with both Labour and Tory MPs being given freedom to “vote with their conscience” on the matter.  

In a letter addressed to Conservative MPs, Throup describes at-home abortion provisions as “temporary” measure, only introduced “to meet a specific and acute medical need: to reduce the transmission of Covid-19”. 

In March 2020 Matt Hancock, who was health secretary at the time, signed off a temporary measure to allow the use of telemedicine services to access early medical abortion at home using “pills by post”. 

Prior to its introduction, women were legally required to take the first course of two rounds of abortion medication in a hospital or clinic. 

However, last month DHSC announced that abortion services in England will return to pre-pandemic arrangements from the end of August. 

In early March an amendment tabled by the Conservative peer Baroness Sugg, seeking to reverse DHSC’s decision to end pills by post, passed through the Lords.

Government has described the amendment as “inoperable” and have tabled an amendment-in-lieu, which has the same aims, but has made clear they do not support it.

“The Government’s policy remains that the temporary approval should expire in England in August, and that we should return to the measures in place before the pandemic," Throup wrote to MPs today.

The issue of pills by post has divided MPs across the Conservative Party, with key campaigners acting behind the scenes to rally colleagues to their side.

Father of the house Sir Peter Bottomley, and former ministers Caroline Nokes and Crispin Blunt, have implored fellow Conservative MPs to vote against government’s “misjudged” policy.

A group of Tories including Miriam Cates, Sally-Ann Hart and Fiona Bruce have been campaigning to support DHSC.

Yesterday, Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting wrote to Labour MPs urging them to support forcing a government U-turn on ending at-home early abortion services.

“I hope that you are able to join me in supporting this important provision on Wednesday, so women can continue to get the help they need safely and more quickly than would have been possible prior to the pandemic,” Streeting said.

An online parliament petition urging government to maintain provisions for pills by post has amassed more than 14,000 signatures. 

Research conducted by the British Medical Journal has found that since telemedicine was introduced, requests for abortion pills from to illicit providers in the UK Britain has fallen by 88%.

“Thanks to the success and impact of the national vaccination and booster programme, we are in a very different position compared to the beginning of the pandemic,” Throup said. 

“After careful consideration… we announced that this temporary provision will be
extended for a further 6-months and will end at midnight on 29 August 2022. 

“After this point, face to face services will return and all women will be required to attend a clinic to take the first pill in England. This remains the Government position.”

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