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2020 developments in the provision of early medical abortion by telemedicine in the UK

Parsons, Jordan A and Romanis, Elizabeth Chloe (2021) '2020 developments in the provision of early medical abortion by telemedicine in the UK.', Health Policy, 125 (1). pp. 17-21.


The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated the rapid implementation of telemedical health services. In the United Kingdom, one service that has benefitted from this response is the provision of early medical abortion. England, Wales, and Scotland have all issued approval orders to this effect. These orders allow women to terminate pregnancies up to certain gestational limits, removing the need for them to contravene social distancing measures to access care. However, they are intended only as temporary measures for the duration of the pandemic response. In this paper, we chart these developments and further demonstrate the already acknowledged politicisation of abortion care. We focus on two key elements of the orders: (1) the addition of updated clinical guidance in the Scottish order that suggests an extended gestational limit, and (2) sunset clauses in the English and Welsh orders, as well as an indication of similar intentions in Scotland. In discussing these two issues, we suggest that the refusal of UK governments to introduce telemedical provision of early medical abortion previously has not been based on health concerns. Further, we question whether it would be appropriate for the approval orders to be lifted following the pandemic, suggesting that to do so would represent regressive and harmful policy.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 4.0.
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Publisher statement:© 2021 This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license
Date accepted:03 November 2020
Date deposited:24 May 2021
Date of first online publication:16 November 2020
Date first made open access:16 November 2021

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