Women in England to be allowed to take second abortion pill at home
Women in England are to be allowed to take the second abortion pill at home.
The move was welcomed by campaigners and follows Scotland and Wales in offering women the chance to take the second of two early abortion pills in the safe and familiar surroundings of their own home.
Women are currently required to take both pills at a clinic 24-48 hours apart - which can cause unnecessary stress and trauma.
The Government said it will legalise home-use by the end of the year.
Professor Lesley Regan, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), said: "Today's announcement that use of misoprostol at home will be allowed in England is hugely welcomed and a major step forward for women's healthcare.
"This simple and practical measure will provide women with significantly more choice and is the most compassionate care we can give them.
"It will allow women to avoid distress and embarrassment of bleeding and pain during their journey home from an unnecessary second visit to a clinic or hospital.
"It will also improve access to safe and regulated abortion care and take pressure off NHS services."
Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas), which has long campaigned for the move, said the decision "represents an outbreak of common sense" and will improve the experience of the more than 100,000 women in England who have early abortions each year.
Under the current system, women are required to take both pills, mifepristone and misoprostol, 24-48 hours apart in a clinic to end an early pregnancy before 10 weeks' gestation.
Women leave the clinic after taking the second pill and pass the pregnancy at home, with the two visits sometimes challenging to organise and often uncomfortable or traumatic and some women even beginning to miscarry before they reach home.
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said it will work with key partners including the RCOG to develop clinical guidance that all professionals will be expected to follow when providing the treatment option to patients.
Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, said: "Abortion can be a difficult experience so it is important that women feel safe and as comfortable as possible.
"This decision will increase choice for women and help ensure they receive safe and dignified care."
Ms Furedi said: "We are delighted by this decision, which represents an outbreak of common sense.
"It will dramatically improve the experience of the more than 100,000 women in England who undergo Early Medical Abortion every year.
"Bpas has long campaigned for this simple, evidence-based measure, which is standard practice across the world and endorsed by the World Health Organisation.
"Enabling women to use this medication at home rather than being forced to take it in a clinic means women will no longer risk pain and bleeding as they travel home after taking it, and means they can use it at the time that is right for them, when they are safe and comfortable in the privacy of their own homes."
Women meeting the inclusion criteria will be required to attend a clinic for the administration of mifepristone, the first medication.
They will then have the option of being discharged home to self-administer the second medication, misoprostol, but they will still be able to attend a clinic if they prefer.
Wales announced the move in June, while the change in practice was made in Scotland last year following advice from clinicians and women's groups.