High Court rejects attempt to relax home abortion law relaxation rejected

A bid to relax the law on home abortions has been rejected by the High Court.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) argued that advances in medical science meant the law should now allow the second dose of tablets for an early medical abortion (EMA) to be self-administered at home rather than require women to attend a medical practice or hospital and have to make their way home afterwards.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley opposed the move and his lawyers argued that the 1967 Abortion Act still required women to take both first and second doses under supervision in a hospital or other medical premises.

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Yesterday, Mr Justice Supperstone, sitting at the High Court in London, ruled in favour of the Health Secretary and dismissed the BPAS’s case.

BPAS lawyers said women suffered unnecessary anxiety about miscarrying on the way home from the clinic after the second round of tablets, especially if they had to travel long distances and/or use public transport.

The judge had to decide on the meaning of the words “any treatment for the termination of pregnancy” under Section 1(3) of the Abortion Act, and whether it covered both the prescription and the administration of the drugs used in abortion.

He upheld the Government’s interpretation the administration of both sets of tablets amounted to “treatment” which must be carried out by a “registered medical practitioner” on premises approved under the Abortion Act.

But the judge made it clear that it was within the Health Secretary’s powers to approve a wider range of place where an abortion could take place – “including potentially the home”.