Abortion services across the UK are “at risk of collapse” in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, as clinics close and the Government reneged on plans to temporarily allow women to take abortion pills at home.
Francesca* is 18, currently six weeks pregnant, and struggling to safely access abortion care. “I’m at high risk because of my previous medical history and asthma, and I regularly contract infections,” she tells i.
“My antibiotics reduced the efficacy of the morning after pill, so becoming pregnant completely knocked me sideways as I thought I’d covered all bases. The outbreak of coronavirus has left me in a dire situation, where I’ll have to either risk my health to Covid-19 while attempting to make my way to an appointment, or resort to illegal practices outside of the healthcare system,” she explains.
On Monday the Government announced regulations to temporarily allow the use of telemedicine for early medical abortions, enabling women to take both of the pills required to terminate a pregnancy in the safety of their own homes. However, within hours those regulations had been inexplicably retracted by the Department of Health and Social Care, with a spokesperson claiming they had been “published in error”.
For women like Francesca, this U-turn was catastrophic. “The temporary measures announced on Monday really relieved my anxiety and gave me a light at the end of the tunnel. I was broken to hear they had disappeared hours later,” she says.
“I live with my parents, who don’t know I’m pregnant, and because of my health issues, they’re quite rightly making me self-isolate. I’ve already had to cancel one appointment at the abortion clinic, because of my parents’ concerns about the rapid spread of the virus,” Francesca explains.