Director, Catholic Parliamentary Office
Just last month the Scottish government broke with convention and deliberately set out to diminish the views of thousands of individuals who responded to a consultation on home abortions. The pandemic caused the government to change the rules for early abortions in 2020, allowing women to take abortion pills at home rather than under medical supervision.
Over the last 20 years hundreds of consultations have been conducted by the Scottish Government, generating thousands of responses and allowing evidence and opinion from organisations and individuals to feed in to public policy and legislation.
Only 17 per cent of submissions to the home abortion consultation supported home abortions being made permanent. A total of 61 per cent wanted them ended and 74 per cent believed they had a negative impact on the safety of women.
Additionally, more than 600 medical professionals signed an open letter to the Scottish, Welsh and English governments calling for an end to “at-home” abortion because of concerns about abortions occurring beyond the ten-week limit and about women and girls being coerced into an abortion against their will. DIY home abortions are also associated with incidents including significant pain and bleeding, ruptured ectopics and haemorrhage.
Yet, despite this, the Scottish Government shockingly sought to downplay those individuals who raised concerns, labelling a significant number of the responses as “organised by pro-life or faith groups” as if to downgrade their importance. The same treatment was not given to pro-abortion groups.
In another deeply concerning development, the Scottish Government last week published its Women’s Health Plan which sets out the government’s intention to “make telephone and video consultation universally available as an option for abortion services”. The plan also commits to increasing “options for women around where they can take abortion medication”. Concerningly, these commitments have been set out despite the government’s own commitment to “commission an independent evaluation to assess the effectiveness of the current approach, including in relation to safety”.
Despite its own commitment to evaluate the arrangements, and despite the many concerns raised, both by medical professionals and those who responded to the consultation, the Scottish government seems hell bent on making the arrangements permanent.
Not only is the Scottish Government risking the health and wellbeing of vulnerable women and their unborn children, for whom abortion is always fatal, it also rides roughshod over democratic convention. It is dangerous for women, and it is dangerous for democracy.
I intend to contact the Minister for Public Health, Women’s Health and Sport to urgently request that the government commission an independent evaluation to assess the effectiveness of the current approach, including in relation to safety, and publish its findings before taking any further action in relation to home abortions.