Scottish Government and late-term abortion services

Scottish Government and late-term abortion services

The Scottish Government has announced plans that would likely vastly increase the number of late-term abortion services.

Following the release of abortion statistics showing the second highest abortion numbers ever in Scoltand, the SNP Scottish Government has released its “Women’s Health Plan” for 2021-2024.

The plan outlines proposals to prioritise increasing “access to abortion services” throughout Scotland, which would involve increasing the number of abortion clinics and hospitals that provide later-term abortions. This is described in the report as providing “mid-trimester abortion care locally or regionally for all indications” which would involve abortions taking place between 13 and 28 weeks.

Abortion lobbyists have previously campaigned for the Scottish Government to expand provision of abortions for non-medical reasons beyond 18-20 weeks gestation, as Scottish patients are usually referred to hospitals in England for these procedures.

The change in policy would mean that Scotland would go from having almost no locations providing abortion beyond 18-20 weeks gestation, to a situation where abortion is available at later gestations “locally or regionally for all indications”.

A number of those involved in the report have publicly campaigned in favour of abortion services, with staff members of the Scottish pro-abortion charity ‘Engender‘ being listed as involved in the plans.

The report also sets the removal of the need for an in-person consultation prior to a medical abortion as an action point.

An in-person consultation provides an opportunity to ascertain if abuse or coercion is involved.

A number of significant problems have arisen since ‘DIY’ home abortions have been temporarily allowed in the UK. This has included the temporary removal of the requirement that women have an in-person consultation with a health professional before going ahead with an abortion.

According to a leaked “urgent email” sent by a regional chief midwife at NHS England and NHS Improvement on the “escalating risks” of ‘DIY’ home abortions, several women attended Emergency Departments for incidents including significant pain and bleeding, ruptured ectopics, and resuscitation for major haemorrhage. The email leak also revealed police opened a murder investigation into the death of a baby who they believe was born alive despite her mother taking ‘DIY’ home abortion pills. 

A nationwide undercover investigation found evidence of abortion providers putting women at significant risk by not carrying out basic checks before sending them ‘DIY’ home abortion pills.

Earlier this year the results of the Scottish Government’s consultation on whether to allow ‘DIY’ home abortions permanently were published, showing that only 17% of submissions supported making ‘DIY’ home abortions available permanently in Scotland.

61% of those who responded expressed support for the temporary ‘DIY’ home abortion services being ended. 21% submitted other suggestions for how to proceed, which they provided in a free-text response box.

Furthermore, 74% of respondents outlined that they felt ‘DIY’ home abortion services are having a negative impact on the safety of women accessing abortion services.

The plans also propose NHS Scotland, Local Authorities, Justice agencies and the Scottish Government collaborating to curb the ability of pro-life demonstrations or help services to operate outside abortion clinics.

Opposition to censorship zones extends beyond pro-life advocates to unite a large part of society who may not agree with the pro-life position on abortion but who oppose censorship zones as a threat to freedom of speech. Despite supporting abortion, a number of prominent human rights groups and campaigners have spoken out against the introduction of censorship zones. These include Peter Tatchell, the Manifesto Club, Big Brother Watch, Index on Censorship and the Freedom Association.

The Be Here for Me website highlights just a few of the many stories of women who have been helped by people outside abortion clinics, and the stories of women who could miss out on such support in the future.

A poll released in June this year showed that only 21% of the UK population support the introduction of nationwide ‘censorship zones’ around abortion clinics.

The polling was undertaken by Savanta ComRes who interviewed 2,191 British adults online between 18 and 20 June 2021. It showed that support was lowest among 18 to 34-year-olds, with only 15% supporting the introduction of nationwide ‘buffer zones’ around abortion clinics.