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The case for telemedical early medical abortion in England: dispelling adult safeguarding concerns

Parsons, Jordan A and Romanis, Elizabeth Chloe (2021) 'The case for telemedical early medical abortion in England: dispelling adult safeguarding concerns.', Health Care Analysis .


Access to abortion care has been hugely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This has prompted several governments to permit the use of telemedicine for fully remote care pathways, thereby ensuring pregnant people are still able to access services. One such government is that of England, where these new care pathways have been publicly scrutinised. Those opposed to telemedical early medical abortion care have raised myriad concerns, though they largely centre on matters of patient safeguarding. It is argued that healthcare professionals cannot adequately carry out their safeguarding duties if the patient is not in the room with them. These concerns lack empirical support. Emerging evidence suggests that safeguarding processes may, in fact, be more effective within telemedical abortion care pathways. In this article, we address two specific safeguarding concerns: (1) that a remote consultation prevents a healthcare professional from identifying instances of abuse, and (2) that healthcare professionals cannot reliably confirm the absence of coercion during a remote consultation. We demonstrate that such concerns are misplaced, and that safeguarding may actually be improved in telemedical care pathways as victims of abuse may find it easier to engage with services. It is inevitable that some individuals will fall through the net, but this is unavoidable even with in-person care and thus does not constitute a strong critique of the use of telemedicine in abortion care. These safeguarding concerns set aside, then, we argue that the current approval that enables telemedical early medical abortion should be afforded permanence.

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Publisher statement:Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Date accepted:12 October 2021
Date deposited:05 January 2022
Date of first online publication:23 October 2021
Date first made open access:05 January 2022

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