Significant changes are occurring in the landscape of abortion provision in the UK. More women are having medical abortions and self-managing these at home, resulting in an increase in the proportion of abortions performed before 10 weeks’ gestation. Since 2018, women in Britain have been able to take misoprostol, the second medication for medical abortion, at home provided they have attended a clinic to have it prescribed. The COVID pandemic has accelerated the trend towards self-management. As an emergency and temporary measure due to concerns about reduced health service access for women with unwanted pregnancies during the pandemic, consultations about pregnancy options have occurred by telephone or video and, if women wish and are deemed clinically appropriate, a medical abortion pack of both mifepristone and misoprostol can be posted to their home (up to nine weeks, six days gestation in England and Wales, and no restriction in Scotland, but clinical guidelines state up to 11 weeks, six days). Laws prohibiting abortion have been repealed in Northern Ireland, effectively decriminalising most abortions, and pressure for decriminalisation has been mounting in the rest of the UK. The changes are taking place alongside shifts in thinking about healthcare generally. Recognition of patient-centred approaches and supported self-management, alongside enhancement of activities that complement clinical care in sexual and reproductive health, has gained more prominence.



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BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health



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School of Nursing and Midwifery