We Should Not Be Having To Fight For Access To Abortion In The Middle Of a Crisis. But Here We Are

Kelly Grehan

The covid 19 crisis has transformed so much of our lives in such a short space of time. We need to ensure access to all areas of healthcare remains accessible. Having an abortion is a medical procedure which should be easily accessible on demand.

In the next 13 weeks as the COVID 19 peaks, 44,000 women will need an Early Medical Abortion. Many of the women needing them will be those with underlying health issues who have already been told to self isolate. All of us must avoid unnecessary journeys, we are told.

As with everything at the moment, services are being impacted upon by staff absences.  A quarter of abortion clinics run by bpas have closed because of staff isolating, so anyone  wanting to access an abortion may have to travel further than usual. We also know that usual practicalities – including childcare are much harder at the moment.

There is now a real danger that women will not be able to access abortion services.

On Monday the Department of Health and Social Care issued guidance, inline with The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, The Royal College of Midwives and the British Society of Abortion Care Providers, making  recommendations to introduce a safe & effective, temporary telemedicine service for women seeking terminations. Later that day it was retracted. No reason was given.

Just to be clear what we are talking about, an early abortion involves taking two forms of medicine.  The first medicine ends the pregnancy by blocking the hormone progesterone. Without progesterone, the lining of the uterus breaks down and the pregnancy cannot continue.  The second medicine makes the womb contract, causing cramping, bleeding and the loss of the pregnancy similar to a miscarriage.

In medical terms this is a relatively simple procedure. So why is being denied to women now?  It is hard to see this as anything other than an attack on Women’s healthcare – at a time when many women are already suffering.

Dr Jonathan Lord, co-chair of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) Abortion Taskforce and British Society of Abortion Care Providers (BSACP) made these comments 

“It seems extraordinary how government advice is, quite rightly, to isolate in order to contain the spread of the virus – unless you are a woman requiring essential health care, in which case the Government will force you to go on a completely unnecessary journey to a crowded clinic or hospital.   I simply cannot understand why the Government is behaving in such a cruel and reckless manner towards women’s health.”

Is there reason to fear that we will see a roll back of our much fought for rights in the months ahead?

 In Texas, abortion services have been haulted in a move by the Governor to suspend “surgeries and procedures that are not immediately, medically necessary.”

Women seeking terminations need compassion, now more than others. I implore   Matt Handcock to listen to clinical experts regarding terminations and women’s reproductive health during this crisis and reverse his decision.

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