The British Pregnancy Advisory Service has warned abortion services are “buckling” under the pressure of the coronavirus chaos, and some women have been unable to access abortions.
Many clinics have already had to close due to staff isolation. Those wishing to access abortion who have been advised to self-isolate have been left with the choice of exposing themselves to greater risk of infection or continuing with unwanted pregnancies.
On Monday 23 March, the Department of Health announced temporary changes to abortion regulations. During the Covid-19 crisis abortion pills could prescribed remotely and taken at home, and the procedure could be signed off by one nurse or midwife, instead of two doctors.
Almost immediately, that statement on the Department of Health’s website was deleted, accompanied by a message that the guidance had been “published in error. There will be no changes to abortion regulations.”
It seems like anti-choice reactionaries have managed to block the change in regulations, despite near universal consensus across clinical and healthcare bodies.
Sweeping changes in other services highlight the idiocy in the government’s decision. The changes to the powers to detain under Mental Health legislation made due to coronavirus include removing the need for two doctors to sign of the sectioning of person, meaning you need fewer doctors to forcibly detain someone than to permit someone to end an unwanted pregnancy.
It is reasonable to assume demand for abortion will go up over the next few months. A boom in pregnancies and in relationship breakdowns has been widely predicted with so many confined to their homes.
Many, many people will lose their jobs as the economic fallout of the crisis becomes clearer.
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service warned at least 44,000 women will be forced to unnecessarily leave their homes to access abortion services in the next 13 weeks, with clinic closures forcing them to make trips across the UK.
Remote prescription of abortion pills that can be taken at home will prevent unnecessary travel and save lives. We must fight for the Department of Health’s “publishing error” to become reality.
And if we win those steps forward in abortion rights, we should not allow them to be taken from us.