A legal challenge over plans to allow pregnant women to take abortion-inducing medication at home will be heard in full in May.
Pro-life group The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) (Scotland) has claimed the Scottish Government’s move “amounts to authorising backstreet abortions” and could have “horrific” health consequences.
The body has taken its fight against the decision announced by Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer last year to Scotland’s highest civil court.
At an initial hearing in the case for judicial review at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, judge Lady Wise ordered a full hearing to take place on 14-15 May.
The SPUC’s QC Morag Ross told her the legal arguments hinge on the interpretation of the relevant primary legislation, the 1967 Abortion Act.
The legal move comes after Chief Medical Officer Dr Catherine Calderwood confirmed in October she had written to all Scottish health boards indicating the drug misoprostol could be taken by women outside a clinical setting, under plans using powers available within the Act.
She said it was a mark of “significant progress” that women in Scotland up to nine weeks pregnant could take the second dose of the drug at home if they wanted, saying this would allow them “more privacy, more dignity”.
The move has been described as “admirable” by Professor Lesley Regan, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
However, the SPUC has argued the Scottish Government’s position is “unlawful” and it has no option but to challenge it through the courts.
They claim the Abortion Act lays down specific rules for approved places where procedures can take place and that the law “was not intended to allow abortions to take place at home”.
They also argue the Act demands the presence of medical, nursing or clinical staff.
SPUC (Scotland) chief executive John Deighan said the organisation believes the use of the medication can have significant “detrimental” impacts on a woman’s physical and mental health.
“We believe the government scheme amounts to authorising backstreet abortions,” he said ahead of the hearing.
“The potential health risks for mothers and their babies are horrific.
“There would be no medical oversight and this development will result in dreadful threats to women’s health.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “In light of the imminent court hearing, it would not be appropriate for the Government to comment further at this stage.”