First I heard that unwanted pregnancies could be terminated just by taking a pill was about 26 years ago. One of the lads who worked in my office (in the Middle East) had taken things too far with lass who came from a very conservative Muslim family. He, unfortunately, came from a very modest background; the relationship was illicit and extremely bad things, possibly fatal, would become both of them if she brought shame to the family.
It was very real and I felt privileged the young lad could be so honest. He wanted emergency leave to take her to India, which I approved immediately. Time was crucial and I felt the lad had great potential (I was correct). We all make mistakes and for whatever reason this was one that could be sorted.
Four days later he returned to work, slightly confused that his girlfriend wanted to have nothing further to do with him, but otherwise relieved - and intact. I learned it was all conducted under medical supervision and she spent one night in hospital. The pregnancy was in its very early stages and there were no complications. She went on to get married to someone chosen for her and last I heard was the mother of four healthy kids.
The whole process was in its infancy at that time, however it's become quite routine for those who want to end a pregnancy within the first ten weeks. You take a pill then another within 24 to 48 hours - and that's it. Unfortunately in very rare cases, following the second pill, some women vomit, defecate and discharge the embryo along with a fair amount of blood, sometimes within a half hour of taking pill two. It's a crap shoot and only affects a tiny minority, but it can't be predicted and is the risk all women take.
The situation in Scotland was the woman had to go to a clinic to take the first pill, then come back within 48 hours to take the second pill in the clinic, then leave. As distances from medical facilities in Scotland can be substantial this resulted in some women aborting within the vehicle. Pretty bad in your own car, but unbelievably awful if in a taxi or public transport.
Last year Scotland allowed women to take the second pill in their own home - and as we're talking about almost 8,300 of these procedures in 2016, that's a huge benefit to a lot of people who, for whatever reason, have fronted up to end an unwanted pregnancy within the first 10 weeks.
Unfortunately women in England will, until later this year, still have to go to the clinic for their first pill, then back to the clinic to take their second pill, then run the gauntlet of getting home without incident. Yes the law will be changed to allow English women to take the second pill in their own home (01), yet despite that the medical establishment feel the need to establish protocols, so for the next few months it's tough titty for their patients.
Of course those right to life pressure groups don't much like this; they took the Scottish government to court earlier this year to get try to get the at home business ruled illegal, but failed (02). I don't think they'll try it in England, in part because over 100,000 abortions are conducted in England each year with a similar 85% or so using the pill system. That's an awful lot of people and an unimaginable amount of time spent by women to go for their second appointment - and an unjustifiable amount of time and money spent by those in clinics handing out the second pill.
It's a win/win situation, however one compelling reason why the English authorities have agreed to make the change is because some women have chosen to stop using the NHS altogether and are getting both pills delivered to their house by buying them on the Internet (03)! This I applaud, even if it's supposedly illegal. Here I'm thinking about a person who has a demanding job/life and quite simply cannot spare the time to go for an appointment to get one pill, then the next day to get the second pill. Clearly with the second one she either must get it after work, or take the day off, something very few busy people can justify.
Nor can I blame women who smoke, because it's stressful as is without having to contend with a smoker-hostile environment. With all NHS facilities now non-smoking within the building and within their grounds, my sympathies lie with smokers - and others who chose to avoid all the hullabaloo and just get rid of the problem.
It wouldn't surprise me one bit if some of the smokers who take these pills do so to avoid all the rules NICE and Tobacco Control have developed. All this business of being moaned at to quit smoking, or to avoid doing so in front of the child. Of late they've taken to questioning children about their parents smoking habits and help instill in them the fear that mum or dad could die of the habit. It takes real dedication nowadays for a smoker to raise a child - and I admire them for doing so.
So yes it's encouraging to learn that many women refuse to play by the rules when it comes to something as routine, tried and tested as aborting by pill. Your guess is as good as mine as to the true figure for the UK as a whole. My suspicion is the real figure is very likely to be at least 20% higher than official figures suggest.
I don't think for one minute that allowing women to take their second pill at their own convenience will in any way influence those who currently prefer to bypass the whole system. Certainly had the young couple I mentioned had access to these pills 26 years ago, she would have taken them at home and saved the cost of the airfare, hospital fees and stress of discovery.