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Abortion laws slammed by experts

By Lilian Anekwe

Experts have slammed the UK's laws on early medical abortion as absurd, paternalistic and insulting to women, and backed changes in the law that would allow women to terminate their pregnancies at home.

Currently women less than 9 weeks pregnant must have the first of the two drugs (mifespristone) that induce an early medical abortion administered at a surgery or other Department of Health-administered location. They are then legally required to return to the same location at least 8 hours later to be given the second drug, misoprostol.

But critics argue there is no clinical justification for two separate visits to a clinic, and say it places an extra cost burden on the NHS for unnecessary procedures.

Speaking at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service conference in London yesterday, a international panel of doctors said early medical abortions could be safely prescribed to women to take at home.

Dr Mitchell Creinin, professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh, said: ‘It's interesting that the UK leads the world in a lot of areas but it's mind-boggling that the UK still has this paternalistic law.

‘The current system involved incredible cost resources, but there are at least 10 studies that show that EMA can be done safely and effectively by women at home. The whole idea that British women need to be studied to see if it can be done is insulting. It implies that women and their doctors in this country are stupid and I'm sure that's not the case.'

Ann Furedi, chief executive of BPAS, said an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, allowing GPs to prescribe women both drugs at the same time, would be discussed Parliament early next month.

‘The amendment will change the face of abortion, to allow the prescription of misoprostol outside of licensed premises – it will still need to be prescribed in licensed premises, but could be administered by women themselves at home.

‘It's absurd that people are having to do something on because it's the law and not because it's the best thing for them. I'm sure that GPs would welcome the opportunity, because they understand and see in their daily practice how irrational the current situation is.'

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