The Scottish Government has said that women who require early medical abortion will still be able to take both abortion pills at home, and doctors will sign the legal termination documents electronically.
Scottish public health minister, Joe FitzPatrick, said the intention of the government was to ensure abortion services remained in place during the Covid-19 outbreak.
“Patients can have their consultation by telephone or video call so they can follow public health advice to stay at home,” he said. “Following the consultation, if the patient wishes to proceed, and where this is clinically appropriate for them, the medication will be delivered to their home.
“Patients will be given clear instructions on how and when to take the medication and will be given contact details they can call at any time if they have any concerns or queries.”
Mr FitzPatrick, who was answering a written question from Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Monical Lennon, said that if women needed to be seen in person for clinical reasons, they would be.
He added: “The Chief Medical Officer has written to NHS Boards to encourage them to implement this as soon as possible for those patients for whom it is appropriate. She has also asked them to ensure as part of their contingency planning that all women who choose to have an abortion can continue to access abortion services within the legal time limits.”
The CMO’s letter to health boards also urged them to “consider whether doctors can review a patient’s notes remotely and sign forms electronically.
He added: “The Scottish Government understands that NHS Boards are willing to help one another with providing opinions on abortion and signing off if any individual Board needs support.”
Monica Lennon said: “Abortion is healthcare, and I’m glad the Scottish Government has provided an assurance that women will be able to access both abortion pills from home for the duration of the coronavirus lockdown.
“I urge health boards to follow through on this instruction from the Chief Medical Officer and make the necessary practical arrangements to allow this to happen.”
Campaign group Abortion Rights welcomed the confirmation that both abortion pills could be taken at home during the Covid-19 crisis.
Jillian Merchant, vice-chair, said: “We welcome the confirmation that women seeking abortion healthcare will be able to do so without risking their health and that of medical professionals.
“This approval will prevent thousands of women making multiple unnecessary journeys to GPs and Hospitals in order to access abortion services. It will also free up much needed medical time and ensure that healthcare professionals are not put at risk unnecessarily.
“Telemedicine for early medical abortions is a safe and effective practice - already recommend by expert bodies – with no clinical reason why, after the necessary consultation, both abortion pills can be prescribed, delivered and taken at home”.