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Marie Stopes UK is an independent provider of reproductive health services for women and men.

Our press office can provide information and comment on issues relating to abortion care and vasectomy, as well as the services offered in the United Kingdom.

Contact our Press Office

If you have a media enquiry, please email press@mariestopes.org or get in touch using the following details:

Kylie Harrison, Global Communications Manager

 

Karmen Ivey, Global Press Officer

Latest press releases

17.11.2020: Marie Stopes UK announces new name

Today, leading UK abortion provider Marie Stopes UK is putting choice front and centre with a new name – MSI Reproductive Choices.

London, Tuesday, 17th November 2020

The new name, which forms part of a wider change by its parent organisation, formerly known as Marie Stopes International, breaks with its connection to Marie Stopes, the woman and reflects the global organisation’s bold new vision for the future: that by 2030, no abortion will be unsafe and everyone who wants contraception will be able to access it.

Simon Cooke, CEO for MSI Reproductive Choices said: “Marie Stopes was a pioneer for family planning; however, she was also a supporter of the eugenics movement and expressed many opinions, which are in stark contrast to MSI’s core values and principles.  

“The name of the organisation has been a topic of discussion for many years and the events of 2020 have reaffirmed that changing our name is the right decision. As we look to the future, we are reflecting our fundamental focus in our new name, MSI Reproductive Choices.”

MSI was founded in 1976 by Dr Tim Black, Jean Black and Phil Harvey, who opened their first clinic on the site of the original Marie Stopes’ Mothers Clinic in central London, naming the organisation in recognition of the origins of the building and Marie Stopes’ pioneering work in family planning.

Cooke added: “Our founders believed that by providing high quality, compassionate and comprehensive contraceptive and abortion care, they could support women’s empowerment, and their vision of reproductive choice for all is just as relevant today as it was in 1976.

“This decade has opened with many uncertainties, but what we can be sure of is that the need for sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights will remain universal and urgent. The international community is failing the 25 million women who each year have no choice but to resort to an abortion that is unsafe, and the 230 million women and girls who want access to contraception but can’t get it. 

If no additional action is taken, the number of women and girls with no access could increase to 300 million by 2030, yet it costs less than 2 pence per day to protect a young woman from an unintended pregnancy, giving her the chance to stay in school, forge a career, support her family or even save her life.” 

 

Innovating to deliver choice in the UK

The new name also reflects MSI’s commitment to choice in all its forms right here in the UK, where despite being a pro-choice nation, stigma continues to leave many feeling judged, shamed or silenced.

Richard Bentley, MSI Reproductive Choices UK Managing Director said: “We are part of a global organisation that sees the impact of choice on women’s lives every day and that is just as true here in the UK, where throughout the pandemic our teams have worked around the clock to keep services open for everyone who needs them.

“Our commitment to choice extends beyond the fundamental belief in a woman’s right to choose, to supporting them to exercise that right free from harassment and abuse in a way that suits their health needs and preferences. I am proud to be putting choice front and centre of our name.”

In many parts of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted access to contraception and abortion services. However, following the first national lockdown in the UK, MSI worked closely with the Government to remove policy barriers and introduce telemedicine to help prevent unnecessary exposure to the virus.

Since April, this highly rated telemedicine service, has enabled more than 12600  women to have a phone consultation and take both sets of abortion pills at home, resulting in safer, more private care at earlier stages of pregnancy.

MSI has also introduced a live webchat service and video consultations to give women control and information at their fingertips, ensuring they never feel alone in making their reproductive choices.

Following new research revealing more than a third (36%) of UK women were unsure how to access contraception during the pandemic, the leading abortion provider has also launched its first two standalone contraceptive clinics to ensure women have access to the most effective long acting methods including the coil and implant.

 

Caroline Gazet, UK clinical director for MSI Reproductive Choices said:

“Throughout my career as a doctor, I have seen the power that access to reproductive choice has. From protecting women who will go to any lengths to end an unintended pregnancy, to the opportunities available for young people when they can access stigma-free contraceptive services.

“With women and girls in the UK facing daunting challenges including continuing inequality and the fallout from the global pandemic, there is a long road ahead, but the choice in our name is a promise to anyone who needs our services that we are here to support you to access the care you need on your terms.”

 

-Ends -

Notes to Editors

For interviews and further information please contact:

  • Email: press@mariestopes.org 
  • Tel: (+44) 07769 166 516

About MSI Reproductive Choices

MSI is a global organisation providing contraception and safe abortion services to women and girls in 37 countries. We believe that every woman and girl must determine her own future, and the high-quality services we provide give a woman the power to pursue her dreams for herself and her family.

06.10.20: Manchester city council to introduce a Safe Access Zone around our clinic

Manchester city council agreed to introduce a Safe Access Zone around our clinic in Fallowfield. Today’s decision is a huge victory for the women of Manchester who will finally be able to access the healthcare to which they are legally entitled free from intimidation and harassment.

 

Richard Bentley, Managing Director of Marie Stopes UK said:

"Today’s decision is a huge victory for the women of Manchester who will finally be able to access the healthcare to which they are legally entitled free from intimidation and harassment.
“Our team in Manchester do everything they can to create a welcoming haven where women feel supported in their choices, and during the pandemic have been working around the clock to keep services open for everyone who needs them. It is disgraceful that they have been forced to witness this undermined by the cruel tactics of the radical anti-choice groups standing outside. We are incredibly grateful to Manchester Council for recognising the emotional distress that these groups create and for taking proportionate action to protect the privacy and dignity of women accessing our clinic.
“However, while this decision will protect the wellbeing of everyone coming to our Manchester centre, the vast majority of abortion clinics throughout England and Wales remain defenceless. The fact is whether it’s one woman being harassed or 1,000, it’s still too many. It is time for the UK government to end the postcode lottery of harassment and legislate for Safe Access Zones outside all registered abortion care providers in the UK.”

 

What is a Safe Access Zone?

A Safe Access Zone, also commonly called a Buffer Zone, is an area surrounding the abortion provider premises where specific gatherings and activities that are known to have a detrimental effect on clinic visitors would be prohibited. The official zone is a designated distance around the premises to protect service user’s privacy and confidentiality.

The evidence shows that designated Safe Access Zones are the best way to protect abortion care service users by prohibiting specific activities that cause our clients and team members to feel intimidated, distressed, harassed, afraid and alarmed.

The introduction of Safe Access Zones is based on the principle that the right of assembly and free speech of individuals and groups can be exercised somewhere that does not discriminate against women and pregnant people, or infringe their right to privacy and family life.

You can read our official Position Paper on the need for National Safe Access zone on our Advocacy and Positions page.

25.09.20: Christian Concern appeal dismissed by Court of Appeal

Media statement 

London, 25th September 2020 – If you are covering news that today the Court of Appeal has dismissed a legal challenge over Government changes to abortion rules made during the coronavirus pandemic, you may find the following statement from Marie Stopes UK helpful.

Marie Stopes UK’s Medical Director Jonathan Lord said:

“We’re extremely pleased that the Court of Appeal has dismissed this challenge in favour of the thousands of women who want and need to access early medical abortion care at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Home use of safe and effective abortion medication has reduced waiting times, meaning women can complete their abortion at an earlier stage of their pregnancy.    We have seen even lower complication rates in what was already a very safe and effective treatment.   Home use is especially important to those in vulnerable groups or who may face coercion from abusive partners to continue an unwanted pregnancy, and for them the whole telemedicine programme has been revolutionary.

“It’s disappointing that radical anti-choice groups still try to impose their minority and restrictive views on women who are making choices about their own bodies, especially when at the same time we need to maintain COVID-19 social distancing rules for the safety of our patients and staff.

“We hope the government will act on the evidence emerging from our experience of home use and ensure that women continue to have timely access to safe abortion both during the pandemic and beyond.”

25.09.20: More than a third of UK women unsure how to access contraception during COVID-19

New data released ahead of World Contraception Day, reveals UK women’s needs have been neglected during the pandemic - with young women and girls worst affected

London - Friday, 24th September 2020:

More than a third (36%)[i] of UK women are unsure how to access contraception during the coronavirus pandemic, new research from MSI has revealed.

The survey of 1,000 UK women, conducted by IPSOS Mori on behalf of the leading sexual and reproductive health charity revealed almost a quarter (24%) of UK women have needed to access contraception during COVID-19, but many have been left in the dark about how and where to do so.

  • Less than half (46%)[ii] thought they could access contraception through their GP.
  • Less than half (48%)[iii] thought they could access contraception through a pharmacy.
  • More than a third (35%)[iv] of the women who tried to access a contraceptive service, thought that the service had got worse.

 

Julia Hogan, lead contraceptive nurse for Marie Stopes UK, said:

“Women’s need for contraception does not stop during an emergency, but once again, women and girls have been disgracefully neglected. Many have been left confused about where they can access contraceptive services during COVID-19, unable to use the method of their choice or worryingly, unable to access a service at all.

“All too often our teams speak to women who have become pregnant while on contraception waiting lists and with no end in sight to the pandemic, it is more important than ever that women know how and where to access the contraception that is right for them.”

 

A postcode lottery of care

The diversion of resources to the COVID-19 response combined with chronic underfunding of sexual health over the last 10 years have seen GP surgeries and sexual health centres across the country cancelling ‘non-urgent’ contraception appointments, especially for the most effective long-acting methods in a postcode lottery of care. Some have had to close their doors completely.

Young women and girls aged 16-24 were more likely (34%)[v] than women, 24-35 (29%)[vi] to report a need for contraceptive services, with 23%[vii] of women aged 35-44 reporting a need for contraception during the pandemic.  

More than a third (35%)[viii] of the 200 women surveyed who tried to access a contraceptive service, thought that the service had got worse, with around 1 in 7 (14%)[ix] stating that there were no appointments available in their area, and just under 1 in 10 (9%)[x] stating the clinics in their area were closed or that the contraception service and/or product they needed was unavailable.

Suzi, 29 from London was due to have her hormonal coil removed in March when the pandemic hit:

“I was meant to have my hormonal coil removed in March as it had run out, but then we went into lockdown. My local sexual health clinic said they weren’t doing any non-urgent procedures and that it would cover me until March 2021. I was worried about it not working or getting infected, but I wasn’t sure what to do after they said they couldn’t remove it or where else to go, so I just had to hope it would be OK.

“I recently found out that I can get my coil removed at the GP surgery, but they won’t put a new one in so I will have to go on the contraceptive pill – which I don’t really want to do. The nurse who advised me also told that it was untrue my coil would last until March 2021 and I should be using other contraception such as pills or condoms.”

“I don’t want to get pregnant, especially during a global pandemic and it’s really confusing being passed from pillar to post when I’m trying to be responsible and keep myself protected.”

 

What women want

The survey also asked women what they want from a contraceptive service in a bid to understand how to improve access to contraception for women across the country.

The research revealed that:

  • 44%[xi] of women want healthcare providers to give out longer supplies of pills or condoms
  • Nearly a third (31%)[xii] want easier access to free-short term contraception at pharmacies, by removing the need for a prescription
  • Over a third (34%)[xiii] of women would like more information on how to access services remotely
  • Just over a quarter (26%)[xiv] of women want more information about where they can access contraceptive services more generally
  • Just over a fifth (21%)[xv] of women wanted longer opening hours and a fifth (20%)[xvi] thought more appointments would improve access to contraceptive services in their area

New contraception clinics 

In response to the crisis in contraception access, leading abortion provider Marie Stopes UK has launched two standalone contraceptive clinics, one in Hemel Hempstead and one opening in Wakefield providing the most effective long-term methods, including the coil and the implant. It is keen to work with more local authorities to ensure more women are protected with the contraceptive method of their choice.

Caroline Gazet, Clinical Director for Marie Stopes UK said:

“Lack of investment in contraceptive services has led to a postcode lottery of care, with poor access and unacceptable waits, particularly for the most effective long-acting methods like the implant and coil - women are then shamed if they need to access abortion care.

“The global pandemic has only exacerbated how difficult it can already be for women to access contraception when they need it most, but by listening to what women want and working in tandem with providers, local authorities can ensure that women have access to the full range of contraceptive methods available, so they can choose the contraception that is best for them.”

Marie Stopes UK is here for you if you need to access abortion care. To book a consultation call their advice line on 0345 300 8090.

If you are in Wakefield or Hemel Hempstead and would like to book a contraception telephone consultation, call the dedicated advice line on 01454 808100, Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm.

- Ends -

Notes to Editors

The research was carried out by Ipsos MORI on behalf of MSI.  Ipsos MORI interviewed a sample of 1,000 women aged 16-50 in the UK. Research was conducted using its online i:omnibus between 29th July – 3rd August 2020. Data has been weighted to the known offline population proportions for age within gender, region, working status and income. 

 

For interviews, photography and further information please contact:
Email: press@mariestopes.org
Tel: 07769 166 516

 

Case Studies

Suzi, 29, from south West London was due to have her hormonal coil removed in March when the pandemic hit:  

“I was meant to have my hormonal coil removed in March as it had run out but then we went into lockdown. My local sexual health clinic said they weren’t doing any non-urgent procedures and that it would cover me until March 2021. I was worried about it not working or getting infected, but they said they couldn’t remove it, so I just had to hope it would be OK.  

“I recently found out that I can get my coil removed at the GP surgery, but they won’t put a new one in so I would have to go on the contraceptive pill – which I don’t really want to do. The nurse who advised me also told me that it was untrue my coil would last until March 2021 and I should be using other contraception such as pills or condoms.” 

“I don’t want to get pregnant, especially during a global pandemic and it’s really confusing being passed from pillar to post when I’m trying to be responsible and keep myself protected.” 

 

 

Beth, 29, also from North East London decided to have her non-hormonal coil removed in during lockdown due to persistent problems: 

I had persistent and recurring thrush since I’ve had the copper coil in and felt that there was a link. I was repeatedly told by my GP that it wasn’t the case despite having read contradicting information online. It was frustrating not being listened to. 

Following more problems during lockdown, I requested to get it removed. I initially had to wait as I was told they weren’t doing non-emergency appointments, but I then managed to find an appointment at a sexual health clinic.

“I wish there was more information around contraception, how to access it and where - it feels like women’s sexual health and contraception isn’t considered a priority when it should be. I also think there should be more time to sit down and go through your options properly, so you’re able to make the choice that is right for you. Although there is a lot of information online now, as a younger woman, it felt like the pill was the only option when there are plenty of others out there.  

 

 

About Marie Stopes UK

At Marie Stopes UK we are unapologetically pro-choice. As part of the global organisation MSI, we believe that everyone has the right to make choices about their own body and future. As one of the UK’s leading providers of safe abortion and vasectomy, our team members provide high quality, compassionate care for the women and men who need us.

 

About MSI

MSI is a global organisation providing personalised contraception and safe abortion services to women and girls. Our local teams of professionals are passionate about the work they do in communities across 37 countries. The services they provide give a woman the power to choose when she has children so that she’s free pursue her plans and dreams for herself and her family.

 

About World Contraception Day

World Contraception Day takes place on September 26th every year. The annual worldwide campaign centres around a vision where every pregnancy is wanted. Launched in 2007, WCD’s mission is to improve awareness of contraception and to enable young people to make informed choices on their sexual and reproductive health.

 

World Contraception Day Coalition partners are:

Centro Latin Americano Salud y Mujer (CELSAM); Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoelkerung (DSW); EngenderHealth (EH); European Society of Contraception and Reproductive Health (ESC); Family Planning 2020 (FP2020);  International Federation of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology (FIGIJ);  International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF); Marie Stopes International (MSI); Pathfinder International; Population Services International (PSI); The Population Council; The United States Agency for International Development (USAID); United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); Women Deliver (WD).

 

 

[i] The research was carried out by Ipsos MORI on behalf of Marie Stopes.  Ipsos MORI interviewed a sample of 1,000 women aged 16-50 in the UK. Research was conducted using its online i:omnibus between 29th July – 3rd August 2020. Data has been weighted to the known offline population proportions for age within gender, region, working status and income. 

[ii] Ibid

[iii] Ibid

[iv] Ibid

[v] Ibid

[vi] Ibid

[vii] Ibid

[viii] Ibid

[ix] Ibid

[x] Ibid

[xi] Ibid

[xii] Ibid

[xiii] Ibid

[xiv] Ibid

[xv] Ibid

[xvi] Ibid

10.09.20: Abortion Statistics for England and Wales during the COVID-19 pandemic

London, 10th September 2020 – If you are covering today’s new Abortion Statistics for England and Wales during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may find the following statement and summary from Marie Stopes UK helpful.

 

Today, the Department of Health and Social Care published Abortion statistics during the coronavirus pandemic: January to June 2020:

  • Between January to June 2020, there were 109,836 abortions performed on residents of England and Wales. This compares with 105,540 over the same period in 2019.
  • Between January to June 2020, medical abortions accounted for 82% of abortions. This compares with 72% of abortions over the same period in 2019.
  • Between April and June 2020, there were 23,061 medical abortions where both medicines (antiprogesterone and prostaglandin) were administered at home, this represents 43% of abortions during this time. The percentage of abortions using this method increased between April and June, accounting for 33% of abortions in April and increasing to 51% of abortions in June.
  • Between January to June 2020, 86% of abortions were performed at under 10 weeks. This compares with 81% in January to June 2019, an increase of 5 percentage points.
  • Almost 50% of abortions were performed before 7 weeks from January to June 2020, compared to almost 40% for the same period in 2019.


Dr Jonathan Lord, Medical Director for Marie Stopes UK, said:

“I am not surprised by today’s figures considering the lack of investment in contraceptive services over the last 10 years. Even before the pandemic, women faced long waiting times for the most effective methods and this has been made significantly worse by the COVID-19 crisis, leaving many women struggling to access any contraception at all.

Women’s sexual health needs do not diminish during a pandemic, and these figures confirm the crucial need for women of all ages to be able to access high-quality contraception and abortion services.

Telemedicine is the single biggest enhancement in abortion care for years and has allowed tens of thousands of women across the UK, from those caring for children and elderly relatives to women at risk of violence if they leave the house, to receive the healthcare they need and deserve during the pandemic.

“Waiting times have reduced significantly, easing the distress of an unwanted pregnancy and reducing the already low complication rate even further. We have also seen a 77% increase in the number of safeguarding cases identified, meaning more protection for vulnerable women and girls who can now access help in private without the need to inform a coercive partner or divulge intimate details to family.

We hope the Government continues to stand with women and ensures this safe, effective and convenient service is made permanent.”

Marie Stopes UK telemedicine fact box:

  • Marie Stopes UK launched its telemedicine service on 6th April, which has enabled more than 9,600[i] clients to have a phone or video consultation and take both sets of abortion pills in the privacy of their own home.
  • Clients have been incredibly satisfied with the telemedicine service, with 98%[ii] of clients surveyed rating their experience as good or very good and 99.9%[iii] of clients reporting they had adequate privacy.
  • Waiting times have significantly reduced, with almost half of women (46%)[iv] able to have a detailed consultation with a clinician within one day, compared with 9%[v] of non-telemedicine clients.
  • Gestational age has reduced, with 56%[vi] of women having their telemedicine abortion before 6 weeks compared to 37%[vii] previously. Lower gestational age reduces the already low complication rate of early medical abortion to 2.5%[viii]. Complications include retained products of conception (1.5%)[x] and failed termination of pregnancy rate (1.0%)[xi] which can be treated by minor, planned procedures. NICE also states that every day of gestational reduction saves the NHS £1.6m[xii].
  • Marie Stopes UK has found safeguarding via telemedicine using a telephone or video consultation to be highly effective, as women and girls who are too frightened to attend consultations in person can talk more openly and privately. Safeguarding concerns identified have increased by 77%[xiii] during the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic and include major safeguarding cases such as a 12-year-old being subject to rape by two relatives.

- Ends -


For further information and interviews please contact:
Email: press@mariestopes.org.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)7769 166 516

[i] Marie Stopes UK internal appointment data from its Client Record System for clients who have used the Telemedicine Service since its introduction in April 2020 to 4th September 2020.
[ii] Marie Stopes UK Internal data from its 'Welfare check' telephone questionnaire conducted by Rightcare. Fieldwork was conducted between between 21st April 2020 and 4th September 2020. Total sample size was 1,246 respondents who had used the Telemedicine service, with 1,223 respondents rating the service good or very good.
[iii] Marie Stopes UK Internal data from its 'Welfare check' telephone questionnaire conducted by Rightcare. Fieldwork was conducted between between 21st April 2020 and 4th September 2020. Total sample size was 1,246 respondents who had used the Telemedicine service, with 1,245 respondents stating they could talk privately.
[iv] Marie Stopes UK internal appointment data from its Client Record System for clients who have used the Telemedicine Service since its introduction in April 2020 to 4th September 2020.
[v] Marie Stopes UK internal appointment data from its Client Record System for clients who had an early medical abortion requiring attendance at a clinic
[vi] Marie Stopes UK internal data analysing the safety and effectiveness of telemedicine from one cohort of clients who have used the Telemedicine Service over a two month interval since its introduction in April 2020 compared with a control group cohort who needed an early medical abortion prior to telemedicine (Jan – Feb 2020). MSUK complication rates include ‘retained products of conception’: 14.8/1000 of 4862 telemedicine clients, compared with 23.0/1000 of 8140 clients (Early medical abortion pre-COVID) and ‘continuing pregnancy (Failed termination of pregnancy): 9.5/1000 of 4862 telemedicine clients, compared with 20.5/1000 of 8140 clients (Early medical abortion pre-COVID). Other complications, including missed diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy, significant haemorrhage or pain requiring admission, were recorded in 3 or fewer cases with no difference between the telemedicine and control groups.
[vii] Ibid
[viii] Ibid
[ix] Ibid
[x] Ibid
[xi] Ibid
[xii] NICE guideline NG140 – Abortion care, 2019.
[xiii] Marie Stopes UK internal data for calls to their helpline, One Call, which contained a safeguarding concern. Received between 6th December 2020 and 5th April 2020 (total: 1,583 calls), compared with calls received between 6th April 2020 and 4th September 2020 (total: 2,805 calls).

 

20.08.20: 1.9m clients lost access to our services due to COVID-19

1.9M women and girls worldwide have lost access to our contraception and safe abortion services due to COVID-19

London - Wednesday, 19th August 2020: MSI reveals new data showing that 1.9 million[i] women and girls have lost access to its contraception and safe abortion services in the first half of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Across the 37 countries where it works, MSI estimates that the loss of its services between January and June will lead to:

  • 900,000 additional unintended pregnancies [ii]
  • 1.5 million additional unsafe abortions[iii]
  • 3,100 additional pregnancy-related deaths[iv]

Despite the challenges, MSI’s providers have worked tirelessly to adapt and innovate and today’s data shows that the impact on its services has not been as grave as initially expected.[v] But the human impact is still devastating, with MSI’s Asia programmes facing the greatest challenges.

In India a particularly strict lockdown has resulted in 1.3 million[vi] fewer women served than forecasted, with 920,000[vii] fewer safe abortion and post-abortion care services being delivered – 90%[viii] less than predicted. Due to this drop in services, it is estimated that there will be an additional 1 million[ix] unsafe abortions, an additional 650,000[x] unintended pregnancies and 2,600[xi] maternal deaths, due to lack of access to MSI’s services alone.

Dr Rashmi Ardey, Director of Clinical Services at MSI’s India programme FRHS said:

“Women’s needs do not suddenly stop or diminish during an emergency—they become greater. And as doctor I have seen only too often the drastic action that women and girls take when they are unable to access contraception and safe abortion.

“This pandemic has strained healthcare services all over the world, but sexual and reproductive healthcare was already so under prioritised that once again women are bearing the brunt of this global calamity.”

The impact of COVID-19 on women’s lives and reproductive health

To better understand how COVID-19 has impacted women’s access and rights, MSI commissioned a survey with Ipsos MORI, asking an online sample of 1000 women aged 16-50 per country in the UK, South Africa and India about their experiences and awareness of sexual and reproductive healthcare before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The surveys reflected a global trend of lack of information and awareness of service availability during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Perception of abortion services: In the UK: the percentage of women thinking that abortion services were available from a clinic dropped from 81%[xii] before the pandemic to just 21%[xiii] during the COVID -19 pandemic. Perceived availability for abortions from a private clinic decreased in South Africa, from 76%[xiv] to 43%[xv] and in India, from 61%[xvi] to 44%[xvii].
  • Need: In India: 13%[xviii] of respondents reported a need for abortion services during the pandemic. With over 1 in 3 women (35%)[xix] reported a need for contraceptive advice or products and 1 in 10 women (9%)[xx] reported a need for domestic abuse services.
  • Barriers to access: Almost a third of women in India (31%)[xxi] and a quarter of women in South Africa (26%)[xxii] who were seeking contraceptive service (advice or products) were unable to leave home to attend the service due to fear of COVID-19 infection. Almost a third of respondents in India (30%) seeking an abortion[xxiii] report that the clinic in their area was closed and 9%[xxiv] report a wait-time of more than 5 weeks.

Innovation to protect access 

Despite the challenges facing both providers and women directly, and thanks to the perseverance of our providers and the flexibility of governments and our partners, the story has also been one of resilience and adaptation.

Partnering with governments

Across many of its country programmes, MSI has advocated successfully with partners to ensure that contraception, safe abortion and post-abortion care are defined as ‘essential services’.

In Zimbabwe, MSI integrated family planning into the local immunisation programme, ensuring rural women could still access services. In Nepal, in partnership with government, NGOs and multi-lateral organisations, MSI helped influence the swift approval of Interim Guidelines, granting clients and health workers temporary exemptions from COVID-19 travel restrictions and allowing medical abortion services to be provided in clients’ homes.

Getting services to the hands of women 

Lockdowns have meant many women are unable to access clinics, so MSI has pivoted its services to reach women where they are. 

In Uganda, the team has partnered with UNFPA to deliver sexual and reproductive healthcare products using a ride-hailing app similar to Uber.  Women can now order contraception from MSI and have it delivered to their door by motorcycles known as boda bodas.

Establishing telemedicine to deliver home-based care

MSI has worked closely with governments to remove unnecessary policy barriers and pilot innovative ways to provide services. In the UK, MSI launched a telemedicine service in April, which has enabled more than 7,000[xxv] women to have a phone consultation and take both sets of abortion pills in the privacy of their own home, with 98%[xxvi] of clients surveyed rating their experience as good or very good.

Jonathan Lord, Medical Director for Marie Stopes UK said:

"Thanks to the introduction of telemedicine, waiting times and gestations have significantly reduced, and the number of safeguarding cases identified has risen by 20%[xxvii], meaning increased protection for vulnerable women.

“Had this service not been available, the consequences could have been catastrophic, with huge numbers of women and healthcare workers unnecessarily exposed to COVID-19. Some women would also have been forced to resort to illicit sources for abortion care without the safeguarding and aftercare provided by a regulated setting or been forced to continue pregnancies against their will.”  

MSI has shared learnings from its UK programme to launch similar models for remote provision in low resource settings, including South Africa, Nepal and India.

Ensuring access to accurate information 

A key priority for MSI has been ensuring that women are aware of the safe services available and their right to access them. Its network of contact centres across 28 countries have played a key role, with agents providing free sexual health advice and service referrals over the phone, WhatsApp and social media. Under lockdown, its programmes adapted quickly to set up home-based call centres, receiving over one million[xxviii] calls and messages since the start of the year.

Between March and April 2020, its contact centres saw a 50%[xxix] increase in clients interacting via social media messages, showing that having discreet ways to access information on SRHR is particularly important when young women might be stuck at home with parents or abusive partners.

Build back better

In many of the 37 countries where MSI provides services, health systems are struggling to provide safe abortion and contraception under the strain of COVID-19, but MSI’s experience shows that there are cost effective and simple solutions that can save lives and maintain access: from implementing telemedicine to collaborating with service providers to ensure the regulatory landscape supports safe access.

Simon Cooke, MSI’s Chief Executive, said:

“In many countries the worst effects of COVID-19 are yet to come and in others a second wave is on the horizon, but there is an opportunity to use this as a catalytic moment to transform services and make women’s lives better tomorrow than they are today.

“It costs around 3 cents per day to protect a young woman from an unintended pregnancy for one year, giving her the chance to finish her education or even saving her life. We call on donors, partners and the global community to learn from the impact we have seen so far and maintain their support and funding for sexual and reproductive health to ensure that women have timely access to essential services, such as contraception and safe abortion both during the pandemic and beyond.”

10.08.20: Marie Stopes UK launches new video consultation service in response to COVID-19

New video consultation service offers ‘gold standard’ in abortion care. The new service means clients can speak with  an abortion care nurse or midwife via a secure video link, eliminating the need to travel long distances and enabling clients to be treated earlier in their pregnancies.

Innovation in abortion care


Leading abortion provider Marie Stopes UK has launched an innovative video consultation service offering women seeking abortion care, personal, face-to-face care in their own homes.

The new service means clients can speak with an abortion care nurse or midwife via a secure video link, eliminating the need to travel long distances and enabling clients to be treated earlier in their pregnancies.

Telemedicine is widely recommended as best practice to improve access to abortion care. But, during COVID-19 when social distancing is so important and people are fearful of attending clinics, it is even more essential, particularly for those in vulnerable groups or who may face coercion from abusive partners to continue an unwanted pregnancy.

Thanks to its introduction at the start of lockdown, over 25,000 women across the UK have been able to access timely, high-quality care that they might otherwise have been denied. And now, women unable to travel can receive the same personal care they would in a clinic by chatting to an abortion care nurse ‘face-to-face’ via a secure video link.

How video consultation works

The video consultation, which is conducted via Microsoft Teams, follows security best practice. Nurse control of the video consultation ‘lobby’ means that a client cannot enter without nurse approval, and as with all telemedicine consultations, the client’s unique pin and password are collected before commencing the appointment.

The availability of an app also means women can access the consultation via their smartphones – making it easier to talk in private. This is especially important to vulnerable clients who may find it difficult to attend clinics without telling a coercive partner.  

Face-to-face contact with the client, even when remote, also helps Marie Stopes UK’s highly trained nurses identify any safeguarding concerns as well as signs that the client may need to come in for a scan.

 

Lucie, an abortion care nurse for Marie Stopes UK said:

“The consultations are much more personal and I have found that clients are more willing to lead the conversation than over the phone. I can also talk my clients through procedures using information booklets for example or showing them different contraception options.

“At the end of every consultation, I ask the client whether, in more normal times, they would prefer to come into the clinic, so far everyone has said that it was just as personal via video, but without the disruption of organising childcare, finding transport, having to find parking or even face the trauma of anti-choice protesters.”

 

Faster and safer access to abortion care

The decision to allow women in England seeking an early medical abortion to have their consultation performed remotely and be sent pills in the post has led to significantly reduced waiting times.

Data also shows that the number of women in England and Wales seeking illicit drugs from overseas abortion charities has reduced from an average of 36 women per month to zero since the introduction of telemedicine, meaning that women are protected by the safeguarding and aftercare provided by a regulated service.

The new video consultation service sits alongside MSUK’s new online chat service, which allows clients to discuss their options confidentially and safely, without the need to ring first.

Dr Jonathan Lord, Medical Director for MSUK, said:

“It’s important that we find innovative ways to support women who want to access abortion care, especially for those who are vulnerable or who find travel difficult.   Video consultation is an excellent option we can offer that should help many women receive care personalised to their needs.

“We know that people feel more relaxed and are able to talk more freely and privately in their own home.   With our new video service, they can now speak ‘face-to-face’ with our trained advisors and nurses as if they were there in the room with them.”

Marie Stopes UK is here for you if you need to access abortion care. To book a video consultation call our advice line on 0345 300 8090.

09.07.20: MSUK's response to "investigation" by radical anti-choice group, Christian Concern, into the abortion care telemedicine service

London, 9th July 2020: If you are covering radical anti-choice group, Christian Concern's, "investigation" into the MSUK abortion care telemedicine service, you may find the following statement useful.

Richard Bentley, Managing Director for MSUK and Dr Jonathan Lord, Medical Director for MSUK, said:

In March, the UK government introduced temporary guidance to allow women to take medical abortion pills at home, up to 10 weeks gestation. The move, in line with pre-existing international and national guidance, was welcomed by health providers as a way for women to receive care during COVID-19, without needing to travel or putting additional strain on the health system. 

It is therefore disappointing that a radical anti-choice group, Christian Concern, which campaigns specifically to restrict lawful access to lifesaving abortion care, is now trying to derail this policy with a so called ‘investigation’ that saw three women abusing the system to obtain abortion pills. 

Early medical abortion at home is safe, effective and convenient. Thanks to its introduction, 25,000 women across the UK have been able to access timely, high-quality care. During these exceptional times, as a result of telemedicine provision, days spent waiting for an abortion have crucially been reduced meaning women can access abortion care earlier in their pregnancies.  Had telemedicine not been available, there is a real danger that some women may have turned to illicit sources for abortion pills and would not have had the safeguarding and aftercare provided by a regulated service.  

Christian Concern stated that there were no checks done on whether the women who called MSUK were registered with the GP practice they provided, and that there were no checks done to establish the women’s  identities or their gestation. 

However, the process of providing a registered GP is not a legal requirement.  Direct access to healthcare services is considered best practice and GPs are often not directly involved in services. Abortion care is also considered urgent care, meaning that abortion providers are legally obliged to provide care, whether a woman is registered at a GP service or not, or even if she is not a UK resident.  

As an abortion care provider, MSUK also does not perform identity checks – the same as all NHS healthcare settings in the UK. We trust women to give us honest information and, in our experience, the only people who knowingly abuse that system are, as in this case, anti-choice organisations. 

We are also still seeing many clients in our clinics as needed or requested. Of the total number of medical abortions MSUK has provided since 6 April 2020, approximately 53% have been via telemedicine and 47% through a face-to-face consultation.  

Reassuringly, of those women who have come into a clinic to be scanned, only 1% had a scanned date which would have resulted in a different treatment being offered to comply with the current law, although there would have been no safety concerns if they had used the medical abortion service. 

As other organisations have identified, since introducing telemedicine services, MSUK has seen more than a 20% increase in the number of safeguarding disclosures, including of domestic abuse and sexual violence, allowing us to intervene and support these vulnerable women.   

All women are counselled on what to expect during their abortion, given details of how to take the medicine and advised to call back if they are worried about anything with access to specialist 24-hour advice.  

Christian Concern also stated that the investigations show that telemedicine can be manipulated by a third party, to obtain abortion pills for an underage sexual abuse survivor. This suggestion is also unfounded as our teams deal directly with individuals.  

In fact, what we have seen, is that underage survivors can find it less frightening to talk about distressing and intimate details over the phone. Our teams were recently able to safeguard a 12-year-old girl, who disclosed to us that she was being raped by two relatives. This is the reality of safeguarding in abortion care. 

Further, we also know that controlling pregnancy and access to contraception is a method of control widely used by perpetrators of domestic abuse and, in our experience, we are more likely to encounter women who are planning to end their pregnancy without their abusive partner or family’s knowledge, than we are to encounter a woman who has been coerced into attending a clinic when she wishes to keep her pregnancy.

At a time when COVID-19 has caused unprecedented pressure on healthcare services, many, including the NHS and GPs, are using telemedicine as their main patient interaction. In England, Matt Hancock said ‘we have moved to a principle of digital first in primary care and with outpatients, unless there are clinical or practical reasons, all consultations should be done by telemedicine.’  In doing so, providers are trusting that their patients are offering up accurate medical information when accessing legal healthcare, which the women who called on behalf of Christian Concern did not do 

At MSUK, we are proud to be the first national abortion provider to have introduced telemedicine and have been able to support women in a proactive, responsible, safe and caring way. Our evidence backed approach to providing telemedicine is entirely in keeping with other NHS providers and GPs across the country. 

All the ‘investigation’ by Christian Concern demonstrates, is that three women pretending to be distressed and in need of an abortion, were able to access safe and effective abortion care without risk to themselves or their families, in line with current UK regulations. 

- Ends -

For further information and interviews please contact:

Email: press@mariestopes.org.uk

Telephone: +44 (0)7769 166 516

01.06.2020: Marie Stopes UK sees a 33% rise in domestic violence reports under COVID-19 lockdown

Overall safeguarding concerns have increased by 20%[i], warns the charity

Marie Stopes UK, a charity which provides abortion care services across the UK has seen a 33%[ii], increase in domestic violence reports, as the unprecedented lockdown restrictions force women to isolate with their abusers.

These figures form part of a 20%[iii] increase in overall safeguarding concerns during the first two months of lockdown, as calls to the Marie Stopes advice line spike.

Other increases include women clients under the age of 18 (10%)[iv] and women who are experiencing mental health problems (7%)[v].

The team at Marie Stopes UK’s contact centre, which includes dedicated safeguarding nurses for adults and children as well as ex-police support workers, are trained to spot vulnerable callers, and work with the NHS, social workers and the police amongst others, to help keep women safe while they make the choices that are right for them.

The team have been a critical part of major safeguarding cases, including identifying a human trafficking ring resulting in the rescue of a number of trafficked women.  

Amy Bucknall, Named Nurse for Safeguarding of Adults and Children for Marie Stopes UK, said:

“It is an incredibly scary time for women who need to access abortion care during COVID-19 and we’re seeing an increase in cases where women need extra safeguarding protection.

“In one case, a 19-year-old girl disclosed that if her family found out that she was pregnant outside of marriage, significant harm would come to her. But as she was isolating with her family, it was incredibly difficult for her to leave the house. We had to work closely with protective agencies to get her the support she needed in order to make her choice.  

“Our strong safeguarding processes are therefore critical in ensuring that vulnerable women can access the care they need in a timely manner, free from coercion and harm from others.”

Over the last two months, calls to the Marie Stopes UK helpline have risen by more than 3500 to almost 45,000[vi], possibly due to the large numbers of women struggling to access contraception during the coronavirus pandemic and the fact that most Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are now allowing women to select the provider with the shortest waiting times. The charity is also taking on additional caseload from NHS trusts, who have suspended their work to focus on COVID-19.

Safeguarding these women has become even more complex during the crisis, with public services stretched to the limit and normal safeguarding procedures, such as social workers accompanying clients to clinics, disrupted.

Women are also unable to lean on their usual support networks, leave their houses for extended periods of time or even access public transport if they do need to travel, exacerbating already existing vulnerabilities.

Jonathan Lord, Medical Director for Marie Stopes UK, said:

Controlling pregnancy and access to contraception is a method of control widely used by perpetrators of domestic abuse. In the long-term, we worry that women will be forced to continue pregnancies they do not want to keep, as abuse prevents them from accessing essential healthcare services during lockdown.

“This will have significant long-term consequences for already vulnerable women, making it even harder for them to avoid ongoing abuse.”

The introduction of telemedicine, which enables women seeking an early medical abortion to take both sets of abortion pills at home, means some vulnerable women, including those with a coercive partner, are now able to access care more discretely.

Marie Stopes UK have found safeguarding by telephone to be highly effective as women and girls who are too frightened to attend consultations in person can talk more openly and privately over the phone. They have identified some major safeguarding cases through confidential phone calls, including harrowing cases such as a 12-year-old being subject to rape by two relatives.

However, other women still need to attend clinics, especially if they have contacted Marie Stopes UK later in their pregnancies. Here, shockingly, they can sometimes still be subject to abuse from anti-choice groups, who despite strict social distancing measures, are still harassing women outside of Marie Stopes’ clinics.

Shanaaz Mohammed, clinical team leader at Marie Stopes UK’s Central London clinic, said:

“Unbelievably, since lockdown began, anti-choice individuals and groups have continued to gather outside our clinics, completely ignoring social distancing rules implemented by the government and essentially being a law unto themselves. We have had to call the police on two occasions due to the anti-choice group singing hymns and chanting loudly.

“This means that not only are women struggling with the impacts of COVID-19 and the complexity of accessing care during the pandemic, but they are also facing abuse and harassment when they do attend clinics. It’s horribly unfair and particularly distressing for women who may already be vulnerable.”

 

-Ends- 

 

[i] Marie Stopes International internal data for calls to their helpline, One Call, which contained a safeguarding concern. Received between January 23rd, 2020 and March 22nd, 2020 (total: 1,523 calls), compared with calls received between March 23rd, 2020 and May 22nd, 2020 (total: 1,830 calls).

[ii]  Marie Stopes International internal data for calls to their helpline, One Call, which contained a domestic violence concern. Received between January 23rd, 2020 and March 22nd, 2020 (total: 236 calls), compared with calls received between March 23rd, 2020 and May 22nd, 2020 (total: 314 calls).

[iii] Marie Stopes International internal data for calls to their helpline, One Call, which contained a safeguarding concern. Received between January 23rd, 2020 and March 22nd, 2020 (total: 1,523 calls), compared with calls received between March 23rd, 2020 and May 22nd, 2020 (total: 1,830 calls).

[iv] Ibid

[v] Ibid

[vii] Marie Stopes International internal data for calls to their helpline, One Call, received between January 23rd, 2020 and March 22nd, 2020 (total: 41, 260 calls), compared with calls received between March 23nd, 2020 and May 22nd, 2020 (total: 44, 861 calls).

30.06.2020: Marie Stopes UK launches new web chat service in response to rise in domestic violence during lockdown

Marie Stopes UK launches new web chat service in response to rise in domestic violence during lockdown

Marie Stopes UK’s new live web chat service offers a ‘lifeline’ to vulnerable women facing an unintended pregnancy during Covid-19.


London, 30th June 2020


The leading abortion charity’s new support service has been launched in response to the anxiety that many women have reported during lockdown about reaching out for support over the phone and being overheard by their children or partner.

This is particularly acute for young people living at home with their parents and can be dangerous for those experiencing domestic abuse.


Amy Bucknall, Named Nurse for Safeguarding of Adults and Children for Marie Stopes UK, said:
“During the pandemic, we’ve seen a significant rise in the number of women turning to us for support online as well as a 33% increase in domestic violence reports, so improving access was essential. Our new online chat service is a lifeline for clients, allowing them to seek information confidentially and safely and explore their options with our expert support staff with just the click of a button.
“We know that domestic abuse can often start or escalate during pregnancy and making a phone call to an abortion provider can be difficult, if not dangerous, but it’s vital that women are able to reach out for support. Our nurses and midwives are often the first and only point of contact that a woman will make, and this service will help them get in touch with us in a safe and timely manner.”

 

About the new live web chat


The new online chat service, which provides the option of browsing frequently asked questions, aims to meet clients’ needs for privacy, make accessing information faster and provide another way to get in touch without the need to ring. It also makes communication easier for people who do not speak English as their first language, allowing them to use programmes like Google Translate to chat with an adviser.


The new support service will initially be available between 8am and 4pm, Monday to Friday at www.mariestopes.org.uk. For anyone who prefers to speak over the phone, Marie Stopes UK’s advice line remains open on 0345 300 8090.


- Ends -
Notes to Editors

For interviews and further information please contact:
Email: press@mariestopes.org
Tel: 020 7034 2377 or 07769 166 516 (out of hours)

 

22.06.2020: Extending choice for women in Devon

London, March 27th, 2020

Marie Stopes UK is delighted to announce that we are opening three new clinics in Devon offering women in the region increased access to NHS-funded early medical abortion.

Abortion in Devon: Exeter, Paignton and Plymouth new clinics

A new clinic will open in Exeter on April 1, with another to follow in Paignton in the coming months. Marie Stopes UK is also taking over an existing clinic in Plymouth, offering evening appointments giving women greater choice and flexibility in both the timing and location of their appointment.

Richard Bentley, Marie Stopes UK’s Managing Director said: “Choice is fundamental to everything we do, and our three new clinics mean that women in Devon will be able to access much needed care and advice from highly trained, dedicated health care professionals, without the added stress and difficulties of organising travel further afield. Women opting for surgical abortion will also have access to Marie Stopes UK’s state of the art centre in Bristol.”

The new clinics commissioned by NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group are situated in centrally located health centres, providing a confidential setting that respects women’s dignity and privacy and are easily accessible from all over the county.

Women seeking abortion care will also be offered the full range of contraception methods, as well as testing for chlamydia.

In addition to the professional care and support provided by the clinic’s nursing staff, Marie Stopes UK’s 24-hour confidential advice line One Call (0345 300 8090) is available day or night every day of the year, offering women appointments, advice and unlimited counselling with independent counsellors registered with the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy.

11.06.2020: 2019 Abortion Statistics for England and Wales

London, 11th June 2020 – If you are covering today’s 2019 Abortion Statistics for England and Wales from the Department of Health and Social Care, showing that abortion rates are at their highest level since 2008, with an increase in rates for all ages 25 and above, you may find the following statement from Marie Stopes UK helpful.

 

Marie Stopes UK’s Medical Director Jonathan Lord said:

“Today’s figures are not surprising and underline the crucial need for women of all ages to be able to access comprehensive contraceptive services and abortion care, from the point at which they become sexually active right through to the menopause.

“Efforts to reduce teenage conception rates have led to a sharp decline since 2005, but the contraceptive needs of women in their twenties, thirties and forties, including those who already have children, have been sadly neglected.

“The main issue is the lack of investment in contraceptive services, which has led to poor access and unacceptable waits, particularly for the most effective long acting methods, such as the implant and coil. This is incredibly frustrating not least because investment in contraceptive care is one of the most cost effective public health measures. It's vital that we protect the funding needed to continue the progress made over the last 10 years and give women the contraceptive services they deserve."

05.04.2020: Marie Stopes UK to start new telemedicine service to deliver early medical abortion care

London, Sunday, 5 April 2020:

  • Marie Stopes UK (MSUK) will start a new telemedicine service to deliver early medical abortion care from Monday 6th April 2020.
  • The change comes after the Government issued the temporary approval of home use for both stages of early medical abortion in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Following initial screening, a phone consultation and all necessary safeguarding checks, eligible women will be able to take both sets of abortion pills at home without attending a clinic.

From Monday 6th April 2020, Marie Stopes UK (MSUK) will start a brand-new telemedicine service to deliver early medical abortion care.

The change comes after the Government issued the temporary approval of home use for both stages of early medical abortion in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This means that following  a screening process to check for eligibility  and a full nurse led telephone consultation including all necessary safeguarding checks, eligible women under 9 weeks 6 days gestation will be able to take both sets of abortion pills, Mifepristone and Misoprostol, in the privacy of their own home without attending a clinic.  All compulsory requirements of the Abortion Act 1967 will continue to be completed.

The move will prevent thousands of women each month from having to make medically unnecessary journeys while travel restrictions are in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting social distancing measures and reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19 amongst women, clinic team members including doctors, nurses and midwives and the wider public.

 

Jonathan Lord, Medical Director for Marie Stopes UK, said:

“We know first-hand the stress, anxiety and desperation that many women seeking abortion care are experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are delighted that we have been able to implement an effective telemedicine service in response to the crisis.

“As an organisation, we are more committed than ever to ensuring women receive the high-quality abortion care they deserve and we will continue to work to the best of our ability to ensure safe and equal access to this essential healthcare service, whatever the circumstances.

“This would not have happened without a huge joint effort from both the independent women’s healthcare sector and the NHS, and we look forward to working in continued partnership to deliver the best possible care.”

The new measures are fully in line with the UK NICE Guidance on Abortion Care, which recommends telemedicine as a safe and effective way to manage early medical abortions as well as ensure timely and equal access to abortion care.

Marie Stopes UK will follow new recommendations from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists & Royal College of Midwives, using screening questions to determine eligibility for an early medical abortion without a scan and signposting women to telemedicine if no risks - such as an ectopic pregnancy - are identified,  

 

Women will then receive the abortion pills through the post as a part of a Medical Abortion Pack or be able to collect them from their preferred clinic. The Medical Abortion Pack includes both sets of pills, a guide to taking the tablets at home, contraception, an STI kit if this is permitted by the NHS in the woman’s area, pain relief and an aftercare booklet.

 

Marie Stopes UK hopes the new telemedicine service will bring much needed relief to the thousands of women each month who access abortion care, as well as ease the pressure on abortion providers, so that they can continue to deliver high-quality abortion care to all who need it.

 

The measures also bring abortion care in line with other healthcare sectors, including the NHS, where telemedicine is already being used as best practice in response to the current COVID 19 crisis.

Women whose pregnancies are past 9 weeks and 6 days will still have to come to clinic to take their tablets in England & Wales, however, in Scotland they can remain safely at home until 12 weeks. Those who wish to attend a clinic for a surgical abortion will still be able to, and at-risk women identified by Marie Stopes’ highly trained medical and clinical staff, will also continue to attend clinics to be seen by nurses and midwives for treatment.  

 

Women will be able to access Marie Stopes UK’ brand-new telemedicine service from Monday 6th April 2020. Anyone seeking advice about an abortion can contact Marie Stopes UK’s free advice line on 0345 300 8090 24hours a day, seven days a week.

Get in touch info at this link.

Online Medical Abortion

Call our 24/7 advice line 0345 300 8090 to arrange a phone consultation and receive your abortion pills at home. Read more about Online Medical Abortion at this link.

31.03.2020: New abortion regulations come into effect in Northern Ireland

London, Tuesday 31st March 2020

Today, the new abortion regulations for Northern Ireland have come into effect – they allow abortions in all circumstances up to 12 weeks of pregnancy and also allow for abortions up to 24 weeks into a pregnancy, if there is a risk to the physical or mental health of the woman or girl.

However, it will be up to the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Department of Health to commission abortion services, meaning abortion care will not be readily available in Northern Ireland until services are put into place.

What happened in October 2019? Abortion Decriminalisation

In October 2019, abortion was decriminalised in Northern Ireland with the requirement that the UK Government must bring about new regulations for abortion care in the country by 31st March 2020. The decriminalisation and promised regulations meant that soon many women will be able to access services in their own country that had not been able to due to the draconian, Victorian era abortion law. This meant that women and girls could, for the first time, have an abortion without any fear of criminality, and any ongoing prosecutions were stopped.

Today, the new abortion regulations for Northern Ireland have come into effect – they allow abortions in all circumstances up to 12 weeks of pregnancy and also allow for abortions up to 24 weeks into a pregnancy, if there is a risk to the physical or mental health of the woman or girl. There is no time limit for if an abortion is needed to save the life of a woman, or if there has been a diagnosis of fatal fetal abnormality or severe fetal impairment.

The regulations also outline that abortions can be carried out in GP premises, clinics provided by a health and social care trust and HSC hospitals. The home use of the second medication used in an early medical abortion has also been approved.

What happens now?

However, it will be up to the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Department of Health to commission abortion services, meaning abortion care will not be readily available in Northern Ireland until services are put into place.

Women from Northern Ireland will still be able to access care in England until the UK government is "confident that service provision in Northern Ireland is available to meet women's needs”.

Travelling to England during Covid-19

However, with travel to England restricted due to the COVID-19 crisis, we know this means that travelling is not a safe or viable option, and women in Northern Ireland will be left without any access to abortion care.

Whilst our clinics are still providing care to women from Northern Ireland where possible, we have called on policy makers to allow women in Northern Ireland to take both sets of early medical abortion pills at home, as is now the case in England.

 

Richard Bentley, Managing Director of Marie Stopes UK said:

“We are extremely pleased to see the long-awaited legal framework for accessing abortion care in Northern Ireland - for too long, women in the region have been treated as second class citizens and this day would not have arrived were it not for brave and resilient abortion reform campaigners.

“However, while the legal framework is a significant step in the right direction, abortion care cannot be delivered without services in place, and with travel to Marie Stopes' clinics in England restricted due to the COVID-19 crisis, thousands of women and girls will be held in limbo, forced to continue an unwanted pregnancy or to buy abortion pills illegally online.

“We now ask that policy makers act on science, evidence and expert clinical advice to limit the spread of COVID-19 and allow women in Northern Ireland to take both sets of early medical abortion pills at home, as is now the case in England.

“We are also disappointed that the framework does not include safe access zones to protect women seeking abortion care from harassment outside of clinics,  as we know from our experience of providing care in Belfast, that aggressive anti-choice groups relentlessly target both women and providers and will most likely continue to so while they remain unprotected.”

Raise your voice: ask the Health Minister to take action

Our friends and colleagues at Alliance for Choice launched a petition to allow Remote Abortion Provision in NorthernIreland.

This petition is to the Northern Ireland Health Minister, Robin Swann, to ask that they allow home use of abortion pills for women in Northern Ireland during the Covid-19 crisis, in recognition that women and pregnant people cannot travel to England for care.

https://my.uplift.ie/petitions/allow-remote-abortion-provision-in-ni.

30.03.2020: Marie Stopes UK comment on Approval of Telemedicine

London, Monday 30th March 2020

The UK Government has approved this morning the use of telemedicine for abortion care, meaning that:

  • Women and girls will be able to take both pills for early medical abortion up to 10 weeks in their own homes, without the need to first attend a hospital or clinic;
  • Registered Medical practitioners (doctors) will be able to prescribe both pills for the treatment of early medical abortion up to 10 weeks from their own homes.

We are open as usual and here if you need us

Marie Stopes UK is doing everything we can to be able to offer this service as soon as possible and meanwhile our clinics are open as usual and here for anyone who needs us.

Get in touch

 

Commenting the news, Jonathan Lord, Medical Director for Marie Stopes UK said: 

“The government’s decision to allow women in England to take both sets of early medical abortion pills at home during the COVID-19 crisis, shows that they value both women’s health and that of hardworking abortion care staff, who have continued to deliver essential healthcare, despite a global health pandemic. We now stand in full solidarity with women and girls in Northern Ireland seeking the same protection.

“This would not have happened without such a mobilised and quick campaign from health experts, campaigners and journalists alike, that made it impossible for the government to deny the medical and moral force of the case for early abortion care at home.  

“By listening to expert clinical advice, the government has ensured that the next round of #ClapforCarers will be from the 200,000 UK women who need to access safe abortion services each year.”

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