Women may soon be offered "home abortions" following the success of a Department of Health pilot project.
The scheme found that none of the 172 women who underwent nurse-supervised terminations in a GP's surgery rather than a hospital or private clinic suffered any complications or safety problems.
The success of the scheme prompted family planning campaigners to call for the practice to be extended to more women. Abortions can only be carried out in hospitals or clinics at present.
The pilot scheme in the south of England involved offering women who were nine weeks pregnant or fewer the chance to have an abortion under the supervision of a nurse in a primary care centre. They were given a tablet of the drug mifepristone before returning two days later to take four pills of misoprostol, which leads to a termination within a few hours.
The pilot could now pave the way for allowing women to have medical abortions in GPs' surgeries, family planning clinics and even in their own homes.
Shirley Butler, project manager for the trial, told the Nursing Standard: "This has proved that abortion is safe outside a hospital. We have had few problems. Some women experienced pain and they were given painkillers. One woman had haemorrhaging, but if she had been at home she would have called our helpline and would have been given help."
Anne Weyman, the chief executive of FPA (formerly the Family Planning Association) said: "It is very encouraging that this pilot study has been so successful. Medical abortion is a highly safe and effective procedure, and completing the second stage at home can provide greater comfort and privacy."
A spokesman for the Department of Health confirmed that further pilot schemes were continuing and no decision would be made until a full evaluation had been carried out.
Anti-abortion campaigners fear that the practice could lead to more women having terminations without being counselled about alternatives.Reuse content