Abortion services in England must provide a more consistent service to women, the NHS says.
The call comes from the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) – the official NHS advisory body – in its first abortion guidance.
The draft proposal says women should be offered an appointment within a week and a termination a week after that.
All services should also accept self-referrals rather than expecting women to see a GP first, it adds.
NICE said most services do this, but some hospitals still expect women to get a GP referral too, whereas private clinics that carry out abortions for the NHS tend to accept self-referrals.
This requirement does not change the need to get two doctors to agree to the termination – that is still required, but can be done by the clinic’s own doctors.
All services should be able to offer women the option of surgical or medical abortions and if they cannot, they should refer women to a service that can.
Guidance ‘should address barriers’
The guidance also reflects the change in the rules – announced last year – that women who have a medical abortion before 10 weeks should be able to have the second of the two pills at home, to avoid the risk of women miscarrying while on the journey home.
Paul Chrisp, of NICE, said: “Choosing to terminate a pregnancy is an important part of reproductive health for many women, which is why it’s essential that providers are able to offer consistent support and advice.”
Prof Lesley Regan, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, which helped to draw up the guidance, added it should “help address significant barriers that women experience”.
But Clare McCarthy, of the campaign group Right to Life, said the guidance would have the effect of “rushing” women through a termination which could cause “post-abortion regret”.
The proposals are out for consultation until the end of May.
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