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Change to Early Medical Abortion Laws Rejected

The High Courtlast week rejected an attempt to loosen the law on early medical abortionsUnder current law, women who undergo early medical abortions have to visit medical premises twice to take two sets of pills, 24-48 hours apart to induce a miscarriage.TheBritish Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) sought to challenge the interpretation of the 1967 Abortion Act, so that the second pill could be taken at home.  BPAS' lawyers argued that wording relating to the prescription and administration in a clinic of drugs needed to bring about a medical abortion – two pills, taken 24-48 hours apart – could be defined as the prescription and issuing of the medication, allowing women to go home after the first visit.The Court refused to accept such an interpretation.This article highlights the delicate balance that needs to be trodden between patient choice and patient safety.  BPAS's central argument seems to be avoidance of miscarriage on the way home. I would be interested to know the incidence of this.  I would argue that retaining the two doctor visits has various advantages:

  • The second visit enables the doctor to indentify any complications arising from the first pill
  • An abortion can be an isolating and daunting experience and some young women may benefit from the added emotional support offered by seeing a doctor twice
  • It better avoids any message that early abortions can be used as a method of contraception.

Any change to the law now rests in the hands of our Secretary of State, Andrew Lansley, but I would seriously question the need for him to do so.  Any laws passed which dilute doctors' supervision over medication are very worrying.  It can only lead to a deterioration in the standard of care.Iona Millais is a solicitor specialising in clinical negligence. If you or a member of your family have a clinical negligence enquiry please call our expert clinical negligence solicitors on 0800 916 9049, fill in our short online claim form or email and one of our specialist clinical negligence team will be in touch