5 min read
Exclusive: The majority of people across the UK are pro-choice regardless of political affiliation and back the continuation of at-home abortion care beyond the pandemic, new polling reveals.
According to the survey of 2,001 people, conducted by Censuswide on behalf of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), 71% of Brits agree that “if a woman does not want to continue a pregnancy, she should be able to have an abortion”.
This trend is consistent across the political spectrum, with 70% of Conservatives in favour compared to 9% opposed, and 77% of Labour voters in favour versus 9% opposed.
The majority of Brits also support the continuation of at-home abortion services, after temporary measures were introduced at the start of the pandemic allow women and those seeking abortion care to take medical abortion tablets without visiting a clinic.
Previously women have had to take the first dose of the medication at a registered clinic, followed by the second dose at home.
Those who voted Labour at the last election are more in support of the measures continuing, with 64% in favour, compared to those who voted Tory, who are 56% in favour.
Age also proved to be a significant factor in whether an individual is pro-choice — 68% of 16-to-24-year-olds said they supported women having an abortion, while on 51% of over 55s said the same.
Commenting on the findings of the survey, Clare Murphy, Chief Executive of BPAS, said: “Telemedical early abortion care is supported by medical bodies including the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, women’s rights groups, and — as this polling makes clear — the majority of the public, across all political party allegiances.
“There is a vast body of clinical evidence that telemedical abortion care is safe, effective, and woman-centred.
“The ability to provide at-home early medical abortion treatment has led to shorter waiting times and a reduced rate of complications due to women being able to end pregnancies at the earliest possible gestation.”
She continued: “We must be clear — revoking access the telemedical abortion would be detrimental to the health and wellbeing of women in need of abortion care.
“On the eve of Conservative Party Conference, the government has an opportunity to demonstrate that they are listening to the medical experts and that they are listening to women. We urge them to do so.”
Women’s groups and abortion charities have been calling for the continuation of temporary at-home aboriton measures since earlier this year.
The rule change came into force in April 2020 and is set to last until 31 March 2022, or until the mechanisms underpinning coronavirus regulations are lifted.
Previously, women and pregnant people seeking an early medical abortion — defined as the first nine weeks of pregnancy — were required to visit a registered clinic for their first mifepristone or misoprostol pill.
Since 2018, they have been able to take the second dose home, allowing them to control where they are when bleeding begins.
A recent study by the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, of more than 50,000 abortions in England and Wales, published in April 2021, concluded that abortion care provided virtually was “effective, safe, acceptable, and improves access to care”.
According to statistics from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), 43% of medical abortions were administered at home between April and June 2020 at the height of the first lockdown.
Caroline Nokes, chair of the women and equalities select committee, said the the findings of the BPAS survey “clearly shows the level of support for women being able to access early and safe abortion care when it is needed”.
“What we have seen with the introduction of telemedicine is an ability for women to access help earlier, in the comfort of their own homes, and waiting times have dropped,” she told PoliticsHome.
“We all know that early treatment is far preferable, minimising the risk of complications.”
“The pandemic made life very difficult for women, both financially and in terms of the caring responsibilities they carried out.
“Making this sort of medical care as accessible as possible has helped those who have to make incredibly difficult decisions, and we know making their lives easier is crucially important.
“I hope the Government has the courage to continue with telemedicine for abortion care, and this study shows there are significant benefits to that.”
The survey also showed support for the decriminalisation of abortion, with respondents asked how they felt about a woman ending her pregnancy at home without attending a clinic once the temporary measures allowing this were lifted.
65% said they would not support a woman facing criminal prosecution for choosing to end their own pregnancy at home, while 13% were strongly in favour and 22% were somewhat in favour.
Labour MP Diana Johnson — who recently forced to withdraw her amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill aiming to decriminalise abortion — said the findings of the survey “must not be ignored”.
“During COVID-19, telemedicine for Early Medical Abortion has prevented tens of thousands of women from having to travel needlessly to clinics and has enabled many healthcare professionals to provide care from the safety of their own homes.”
“The APPG on Sexual and Reproductive Health heard from experts at its most recent event just how beneficial these measures have been for women and how important it is that they remain in place.”
“Abortion care must meet the needs of women. Today’s survey results show strong public support for ensuring policy reflects this.”
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe